Nature Based Kindergarten
February 16, 2017 - Parkland School Division (PSD) Early Childhood Services and the Wellness Initiative have developed a partnership with the YWCA YoWoChAs Outdoor Education Centre to create an optional Kindergarten program pilot that will get children active and in touch with nature while essentially extending a child's kindergarten experience from half-time to full-time in the process.
The program responds to identified early childhood indicators that demonstrate a need for additional social and physical development programming within our division. This pilot also seeks to explore the impact on early learning using the natural environment as a place where curiosity, play, problem-solving and calculated risk taking can take place in a safe way.
2017-2018 Registration Open
Registration is now open for the 2017 - 2018 school year. Interest in the program will determine if a Tuesday/Thursday class and a Monday/Wednesday class runs.
Program Key Elements
- Research demonstrates that experiences in nature are beneficial to all areas of development
- This opportunity is one solution to all day EVERYDAY quality programming for kindergarten children in PSD
- This is an excellent learning opportunity for all kindergarten children
- Children will continue in their community kindergarten classrooms and then come to nature Extension on the off days.
This early years enrichment opportunity will allow children to spend the vast majority of their day outside engaged in meaningful ways with their body, mind and spirit while located in a natural setting. These students will continue with their current kindergarten Parkland School Division programming within their respective community schools. Working as a group of explorers, nature-based kindergarten children will be given additional outdoor opportunities by Parkland School Division to be self-directed through their own curiosity and play. Using multiple natural learning environments, children will develop confidence in their own abilities to investigate and to collaborate outdoors and within their natural environment. Children will be physically active and engaged in movement skills that will facilitate their balance, stamina and strength. The long-term benefits of this pilot project will be measured using the Early Learning Intervention tool.
Children will be supported by trained, certificated staff who have prepared a curriculum for this pilot as well as a risk management plan to include activities and learning experiences that occur outside. Staff working with this program will receive additional training with YWCA YoWoChAs and Parkland School Division Early Learning Supports. In order to ensure an optimal environment for the children we propose to have a teacher and an early childhood educator to teach the kindergarten students and maintain a gender balance for the Monday/Wednesday and Tuesday/Thursday programs.
The program will be taught outdoors at the YWCA YoWoChAs Outdoor Education Centre in Fallis, Alberta. The facility offers hiking, waterfront, rock wall, wetlands, forest, and many other learning spaces for pilot participants. The facility is a fully insured, licensed outdoor education centre with a risk management plan that will be shared with participating families. Children will be provided outdoor and nature-based learning opportunities for upwards of 80% of their time. Indoor shelters, washrooms, and learning labs may be used to supplement the outdoor learning experiences.
The cost to enrol your child in this pilot program is $375 per month. This includes instruction from a certificated teacher and educational assistant from Parkland School Division. Bus transportation is included from either Spruce Grove or Stony Plain (locations to be confirmed). Your child will also have access to the YoWoChAs Outdoor Education Facility and staff.
Parents participating in this pilot project will be responsible for taking their children directly to YWCA YoWoChAs or to the Bus Transfer Site in Spruce Grove or Stony Plain. A PSD staff person will supervise and accompany children to YoWoChAs. The drive time to YoWoChAs will be 40 minutes. Parents choosing to transport their own child will not receive a reduced fee for this program.
Extended Hours of Programming
Additional programming will be available in Spruce Grove for those that need their child to remain until 5:00pm. An added fee will be required by those interested. Details will be available soon.