Thanks to grant money from the Ivy Head Family Foundation as well as prize money from a recent Harvard University competition, Frazer Center’s Child Development Program (CDP) is developing a forest-based curriculum for infants through pre-k students.
A team of five was created to lead the effort. CDP Assistant Director April Jones, Instructional Coordinator Kenya Duncan, and teachers Taylor Allen, Gigi Banks, and Kedra Trimble recently attended an educator training program held at the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center. Leading the training were representatives from three environmental education projects: Project WILD is a program of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division; Project WET is a water education program of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division; and Project Learning Tree is a program of the Georgia Forestry Commission.
“Preschool children should be outdoors for an hour to an hour and a half every day. This isn’t frosting. This is whole-grain wheat. It is absolutely essential.”
—Margaret Sheridan, Clinical Psychologist and Harvard Professor
In addition to augmenting the skills that children are developing in preschool, all three of these programs are designed to assist teachers with outdoor activities that will nurture students from having a basic awareness of nature to becoming responsible stewards of the environment.
In February, April, Kenya, and Gigi will head to Jekyll Island to receive further training that will certify them to train other educators in environmental learning techniques. But already, after their first training experience at Charlie Elliott, the Frazer team brought back to the entire teaching staff everything they learned as well as their excitement for all the new possibilities with their students. All the teachers got their hands dirty as they discussed ways to adapt the outdoor activities for toddlers and even infants.
For now, Frazer’s preschool and pre-k teachers are taking their students into the Frazer Forest outdoor classroom twice a week, experimenting with the newly acquired resources and making discoveries of their own.
But this is just the beginning of Frazer’s forest-based curriculum development project. Eventually, every teacher will be heading into the forest, teaching lessons that complement the Creative Curriculum® already at play in the classroom.
The ultimate goal is for Frazer to share access to the forest along with the newly developed forest-based curriculum at no cost to other early learning centers, giving priority to those that serve primarily low-income families.
The research behind nature-based learning is expanding and confirms the many benefits for children, such as increased confidence and development of critical creative thinking. Clinical Psychologist and Harvard Professor Margaret Sheridan says, “Preschool students need a lot of tactile and kinetic experiences. It’s a natural thing to want to be active, but the indoor physical environment is restraining. Preschool children should be outdoors for an hour to an hour and a half every day. This isn’t frosting. This is whole-grain wheat. It is absolutely essential.”
The families who attend Frazer realize what a gem the forest is, right here in our front yard. Frazer is excited to share this gem with more children who might not otherwise have access.
As a reminder to our neighbors who also love the old-growth Frazer Forest, it is imperative that all dogs remain on leash while in the forest. Aside from being the law, it helps keep invasives from spreading, protects the native plants that are re-emerging from the forest floor, and protects the children and adults in our outdoor classroom. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.