Sharing Nature Kindergarten with Older Buddy Students

I had the great pleasure of joining the Nature Kindergarten class a couple of weeks ago as they ventured out to the forest with buddy students from their school.  This was the first time the older buddy students got to experience the outdoors, and what a grand time they had!  Everyone listened carefully as the Kindergarten students shared the three rules of being in the forest, and then out they went.  For the next hour, the Nature Kindergarten students shared their expertise with ease and confidence.

“You have to put nature back into nature,” remarked one Kindergarten student as they paused at the Royal Roads’ gate to dig holes in the sand before making their way into the forest.

“Invasive means [the plants] grow everywhere and take away other plants’ nutrients,” offered another Nature Kindergarten student after his teacher cautioned the buddy students about the dangers of the daphne plant.

The sharing of information continued as the students worked in pairs to complete a nature scavenger hunt.  The Nature Kindergarten students were able to identify Oregon grape, cedar trees, and sword ferns without difficulty.  Later, students used the items collected on the scavenger hunt to build structures together.  The structures varied from bat homes to fairy houses to play shelters.

Before buddy students returned to the school, they acknowledged the following highlights about their shared experience:

“We had a limbo game.”

“I loved building a sculpture.”

“I learned that daphne can paralyze you.”

The Nature Kindergarten morning continued with snack, check-in, and time to play.  I was touched by the warm-hearted comments children made toward one another, their educators, and me during the check-in.  This is a daily ritual where a student asks each of his classmates to respond to ‘how they are feeling’ and ‘what they are thankful for’.   As the check-in takes place, some students keep a tally of responses to ‘how students are feeling’ while others draw pictures in their Nature Detective booklets.

My morning in the Nature Kindergarten inspired me to think about how to provide students at my home school of Colwood Elementary with more opportunities to be in nature.  The Nature Kindergarten students displayed seemingly endless energy to be and play in nature …to create…to climb…to build…to swing…  What a treat for me to be there as an observer to witness their enthusiasm.

Finally, I was awed by the way in which Lisa, Erin and Muriel guided and supported the students to learn, to be safe, and to resolve their own conflicts.  In their own unique way, each of them encourages independence and critical thinking.  Imagine how empowering it is for a student to be asked …”Why do you think that?  Tell me about your thinking”.  Kudos to Lisa, Erin, and Muriel for all they do!

(written by Frances Krusekopf, Nature Kindergarten Project Manager)

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