A new partnership with nearby Edgerton Park has the school’s youngest learners interacting with the outdoors and honing their “animal senses” as yet another initiative in support of the Early Childhood Program’s nature-based curriculum.
“Young children need to be outside to connect with nature, learn from it, and appreciate it. With this partnership, our children will become conservationists, gardeners, naturalists, and more,” said Early Childhood Director Catelin Fee 2004.
The 20-week program will see students journey to the park to engage in meaningful hands-on and multi-sensory experiences based on seasons and nature awareness. According to Mrs. Fee, there is also a community service component to the year-long educational program as students will help keep the park clean throughout the year.
“Following a seasonal curricular plan and what is happening in nature around us, we will investigate the greenhouse, the 20-acre grounds of the park itself, and the carriage house,” explained Mrs. Fee.
Every visit has a theme or topic; such as soil critters, compost, hibernation, rock, and migration, that are explored via activities, guided walks, projects, and conversations. The recent “Five Senses: Animals” theme bridged the connection between classroom and park and taught students about observation and using their five senses.
“The children used their five senses to locate a variety of things around the park including dogwood and oak trees, sap, and pinecones. We learned to use animal senses like ‘ears like a deer,’ and ‘eyes like an owl,’" said Mrs. Fee.
Hamden Hall’s Early Childhood Program incorporates nature and other environmental elements into the classroom to support children’s intrinsic inclination to work and play with natural resources. According to Mrs. Fee, young children have an innate curiosity about nature and the world around them, all of which go hand in hand with the early childhood years.
During outdoor times, children enjoy collecting small rocks, leaves, acorns, flowers, and twigs that serve as materials in open-ended artwork and other activities and programming.
“In an effort to reconnect our children with nature, our focus is twofold: we bring nature into the classrooms and bring the children outside for more outdoor learning and exploratory experiences,” maintained Mrs. Fee.