School Days in a Nature Based Classroom


Lewie's first day of kindergarten was emotional for me.  I was worried about all the usual stuff:  Will he like his new school?  Will he make new friends?  Will he love learning?  Will his teacher be patient, gentle, and understanding?

Although those worries were very real last month, I'm happy to say I'm over them!  After the first day of school, Lewie couldn't wait to tell us how much he loved kindergarten.  He loved everything--his teacher, his classroom, the morning meeting, the outside play area, and his little 'friends.'  Then we started getting wonderful letters from his teacher like these:

Dear Families,

We are having a wonderful second week of school! The children are adjusting nicely and enjoying the program very much. 

Our theme this week was friendship. We spent time getting to know each other better and talking about how to be a good friend. We read, Rainbow Fish, The Kissing Hand, ElmerChrysanthemum and Corduroy, which all lend themselves beautifully to friendship based discussions and activities. The children wrote a response to each story- wait til you see this great work coming home!

The children spent a great deal of time outdoors. We started our gardening curriculum and our Discovery journals. These are where we track our gardening and nature studies. They were very excited about these journals. We gave ourselves garden names: Evelyn Eggplant, Payton Pumpkin, Audrey Apple, Lewie Lavendar, Nicolas Nut and Andrew Apple Pie. What fun! We learned the parts of a plant and also planted some fall harvest seeds in our garden bed. We have a nature table set up in our classroom. It may have seasonal produce on it, rocks, soil and seeds, items the children collect and bring in from nature's classroom or home. Next week, we will be studying apples. Our table will have different types of apples for us to explore, cut open, draw, write about and paint with. If you have any apples to contribute to our study, please feel free to send them in.

We also started our handwriting program, Handwriting Without Tears. The children will begin with proper pencil grip, straight and slant lines and build to proper letter and number formation. Any additional fine motor practice at home is super. Writing with pencil, chalk and chalkboard, white board marker, in the sand,cutting, tracing, etc. 

This week we began our letter instruction. We are studying the letter Mm. We sing songs and read poems. We study the letter and the sound it makes, we learn how to print it, we search for it and highlight it in books and we generate words that begin with that sound. The children will be bringing small books home that they have made in class. Please keep them and have your child read it and reread it to you. This repetition builds fluency and reading confidence. 

Please keep in mind that much of our day is spent outdoors. We have unstructured time to explore outside but also we read, write, solve math problems and even have meals out there. Please remember to apply sunscreen and bug repellent in the mornings. Also, as the weather is up and down this time of year, please send your child in with a light jacket or feel free to leave one in school.

Folders are going home in backpacks today. Please take out your child's work and enjoy. Please return the empty folder to school tomorrow. 

Tomorrow is wear your favorite team jersey to school day.

Thank you and have a wonderful weekend,

Every Friday, we get a very special email sent to us about our child's progress and their curriculum at school where we learn about the stories they're reading, the letters they're practicing, and the games they're playing.

Since Lewie's school is nature based, he spends his mornings inside practicing reading and writing, and then has opportunities throughout the day to run around, explore, play, and learn outside.  They have an outside classroom where they continue to read stories, sing songs (in English and in Spanish), make art projects, plant seeds, and write in their 'nature journals.'  Every twenty minute lesson is followed by ten to fifteen minutes of play, so the children never get bored, and they never lose their focus.  Instead, they are fully emersed and engaged in their lessons.

Last Friday, I had the joy of visiting Lewie's class as a guest, and I brought in books from our local library about farms.  Before coming to his class, I really had no idea how the curriculum or the outside classroom worked, but once I had the chance to experience it for myself (and had a chance to read stories and play games both inside and outside), I realized how 1) quickly the time goes by for children, 2) how engaged they are, and 3) how the entire experience feels more like play and less like 'traditional learning.'   By the end of my two hour visit, the children had already listened to and discussed three books, practiced their letter sounds, numbers, sight words, days of the week, and months of the year, and they had already had a healthy dose of stretching, sun, and exercise.

Reading to Lewie in his kindergarten classroom...

Reading to Lewie in the outside gathering area...  I wish I could show all of Lewie's friends sitting on their tree stumps,
but I'm not allowed to post their pictures for obvious privacy reasons...

I can't say that all of my decisions in life have been perfect, but what I can say is that I couldn't be more excited and happy about choosing to send Lewie to this kindergarten.  I now love it just as much as he does and I'm looking forward to coming back at least once per month, so I can share some more wonderful mornings with my little boy and his class 'friends.'  I didn't know what a nature based curriculum looked like, and now I wish more schools around the country would adopt this idea.


  1. So wonderful that you found a school that you love! No doubt he will thrive there :-)

  2. That sounds like an amazing school! Very ideal for active little kids. Do they do more than just kindergarten there? Glad you got to experience it first hand.

  3. WOW that school sounds AMAZING! If I lived close to that place I would be so interested in sending my daughter there!! So glad you found somewhere you like!

  4. Hi Annette! Long time, no talk. Just stopped in to see if you were still blogging and what was going on with you and little Lewie. It looks like you guys are doing great! That nature based classroom school sounds AWESOME. Life is so much easier when you don't have to stress about your baby at school, isn't it? Enjoy your Halloween! :)


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