Photos courtesy of the Lab School
March 30, 2022
UD’s Lab School fashions nature-based schooling for preschool youngsters
“Dressing for the weather” takes on a literal that means for fogeys who drop off their preschoolers on the University of Delaware’s Lab School, positioned on the College of Education and Human Development’s (CEHD) Children’s Campus. Taking their cue from the climate, the youngsters arrive in rain boots, hats and jackets, able to spend most of their day taking part in and studying in the nature trails, stream or edible forest adjoining to the Lab School constructing.
Established in 1934, the Lab School educates youngsters from the age of six months to kindergarten whereas serving as a wealthy laboratory for UD college students learning early childhood schooling and researchers in baby improvement. With a dedication to child-driven studying and a compassionate mentoring program for preservice childhood educators, the Lab School has modeled high-quality childhood schooling for practically 88 years.
In 2017, the Lab School started its nature-based preschool program, pioneered by grasp instructor Katie Pollock. It has since turn out to be a frontrunner in the sector, garnering the eye of the distinguished In Bloom Conference, an expert studying occasion for educators in nature-based schooling. On Saturday, April 2, the Lab School will host the convention, and a number of other UD lecturers and college members will lead the afternoon occasions.
“A high-quality early childhood curriculum focuses on the child and the development of the child, including their physical development, their language development, their sense of themselves, their ability to interact with others and their ability to learn literacy, math, science and social studies. When you teach a high-quality early childhood program, you’re addressing the whole child, and that is something that the Lab School has always modeled,” stated Jennifer Gallo-Fox, affiliate professor in CEHD’s Department of Human Development and Family Sciences (HDFS). “We strongly connect the theory and the research of the field and exemplify it at the Lab School. The nature-based curriculum is another way of showing what this model can look like when you’re outside.”
The Lab School’s nature-based program engages preschoolers’ sense of marvel and curiosity via a stability of child-driven and teacher-directed out of doors actions that foster social, bodily, cognitive and language improvement. Children discover the paths, creeks and wooded areas across the Lab School whereas partaking in actions that combine science, math, literacy and the humanities.
“At the heart of nature-based education is the belief, supported by research, that young children benefit from opportunities to spend time in nature supported by caring adults,” stated Ellen Doris, director of the nature-based early childhood certificates program at Antioch University and one of many keynote audio system for the In Bloom Conference. “We want outdoor play and learning to be part of every childhood so that every child can develop sturdy, loving connections to nature and to their communities.”
Even throughout the colder months, youngsters on the Lab School spend most of their time outdoors, exploring the terrain because it modifications throughout the winter. They could examine ice or snow below a microscope, research a tree with out its leaves or find out about hibernating animals.
“Some schools will do a unit on winter, but winter isn’t two weeks long,” Pollack stated. “Winter is very long, and there are different stages of winter. We can discover different things about ice, like how it melts or how it refreezes, and encourage the children to investigate it with magnifying glasses and microscopes. We can ask them to think about temperature and how shade affects different parts of the ice. But most of all, we get them to wonder, we get them to question, and we get them to love learning.”
At the middle of this emergent curriculum — pushed by the kid’s personal curiosities and improvement — is a robust sense of neighborhood. The lecturers and employees on the Lab School start constructing relationships with the youngsters and their households earlier than the start of the college yr so that each baby feels cared for and supported in their educational and social-emotional progress. The Lab School additionally invitations members of the neighborhood, equivalent to grasp gardeners and youngsters’s ebook authors, to share their experience and interact with the youngsters in playful studying actions.
Rich mentoring for preservice lecturers
The Lab School can be distinctive in its dedication to the mentoring of preservice childhood educators, particularly the UD college students enrolled in the early childhood schooling (ECE) program, housed inside HDFS.
As early as their sophomore yr, ECE college students spend in the future every week on the Lab School, co-teaching with the grasp lecturers, creating relationships with the youngsters and cultivating reflective follow, a mannequin for learning one’s personal educating and enhancing upon it based mostly on expertise and continued studying.
“Before the children arrive, we talk with the ECE sophomores about the activities that are out, the intentionality that went into the activities, the skills that we’re encouraging as a result, and we ask how they could extend or scaffold the play,” Pollack stated. “Once the children arrive, the students are on the floor. We don’t want them sitting back and taking notes — there is a different time and place for that. We want them engaged. When they are here, they are a part of our teaching team. We build relationships with them from the get-go, and we have a reciprocal relationship regarding our goals.”
Some of those college students then full their pupil educating on the Lab School, creating a long-lasting skilled relationship with the lecturers and employees lengthy after they graduate from UD.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lab School remained one of many solely websites in Delaware open to pupil educating. ECE college students and different preservice lecturers have been capable of witness firsthand how the lecturers and employees pivoted to on-line instruction after which rapidly reopened for in-person instruction after increasing and enriching their present out of doors areas.
Hosting the In Bloom Conference
Highlighted by exterior organizations, such because the Natural Start Alliance, the Lab School grasp lecturers — a title that denotes a excessive degree of experience and a dedication to scholarly, reflective follow — and its devoted employees have established themselves as leaders in early childhood schooling.
The Lab School will host the In Bloom Conference, organized by David Sobel of Antioch University, the place a number of of the grasp lecturers are both finishing or have graduated from their certification program in nature-based schooling.
“It’s wonderful to have a whole group of teachers pursuing their professional development together in a collegial way,” Doris stated. “These teachers are all so inspiring in terms of what they’ve already accomplished at the Lab School. They’re not learning for the first time about nature-based education at Antioch — they have already moved that forward in a wonderful way in their own program and are helping other professionals learn. They have been really generous about contributing their expertise to colleagues in the program, and they are so eager to learn more.”
The Lab School lecturers and HDFS college will lead a number of of the afternoon workshops, targeted on matters equivalent to child-driven exploration, nature-based science practices and engineering processes, learning birds with toddlers and cultivating mindfulness.
To register for the In Bloom Conference, hosted in conjunction with Antioch University and HDFS, go to Antioch University’s registration web page. To be taught extra concerning the Lab School and its applications, go to its web site.