Nature-Based Learning

“While this week had a few raindrops here and there, we didn't let this dampen our fun. Upon taking a hike through the woods, we made a discovery... The rain left us with so many wonderful puddles waiting to be splashed in! Some friends tested their bravery and splashed right through the puddles without a second thought. Other friends adapted to the challenge and found creative ways to navigate around the puddles, turning it into a game of strategy. And then there were the clever friends who searched for rocks and sticks to create a path through the puddles! Our little hike through the woods became a valuable learning experience, teaching our friends about adaptability, teamwork, and resourcefulness in the most fun and rewarding way!”
~Ms. Angie and Ms. Destiny, Chance School Preschool Teachers (from their weekly newsletter to families)
At Virgina Chance School, we agree with our Scandinavian friends when they say, “there is no bad weather, just bad clothes.” Think about the last time you were in nature, taking a hike, walking, or riding a bike. How did you feel after that experience? If you’re like me, you may have felt simultaneously more calm and more energized. The day's troubles magically faded away, leaving a sense of peace that all would be well. The physical, social, and mental benefits of being outside are plentiful for young children too.

According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) a few of the benefits of being outside are:

1. It invites children to learn about science
2. It creates opportunities for social interaction and collaboration
3. It promotes physical health
4. It invites new contexts for learning
5. It promotes better sleep
6. It gives children a chance to take appropriate risks

Since young children learn through play, what better place to explore, investigate, and question than nature? Here are some ideas for playing in nature as a family:

1. Use the natural environment to build and create. Mud, leaves, sticks, and acorns can quickly turn into a mud kitchen, a castle, a fairy house, and much more.
2. Bike, hike, scoot, walk around your neighborhood, or explore a new part of Louisville by visiting one of our beautiful local parks.
3. Grab a blanket and enjoy a good book or a picnic.
4. Schedule parties and playdates for outside locations.
For a successful experience, planning and thinking ahead before getting outside is best. It's a good idea to have spare clothes available for children, no matter their age, during outdoor activities. Think about keeping a full change of clothes in your car or in your on-the-go bag. For warmer days, we’ve found that water bottles, closed-toed sandals, sunscreen, and bug spray will make the day more fun. While on cool, cold, or rainy days, think about layers, water-resistant clothes, boots, hats, mittens, and extra clothing changes. On cooler days, those cozy moments with cocoa and kid-approved hand warmers will feel even better.

Don’t let the change of seasons keep you indoors. Remember, snow happens! Rain happens! Seasons and weather provide different types of adventures for children to play, learn and grow. So, one final thought - mood follows action. Go ahead and get outside, even if staying indoors seems oh-so-tempting. You won’t regret the experience or the memories.

Look for our next article on helping young children become environmental stewards because once they learn to love nature, they’ll be inspired to care for it too. To learn more about Chance School, please visit or email [email protected].
Sources & Resources:
There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather, Linda Åkeson McGurk
The Open Air Life, Linda Åkeson McGurk
Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart of Nature Education, David Sobel