Parkland School Division's Nature Kindergarten program is currently operated by staff of Muir Lake School, where children from all over Parkland School Division are offered a unique curriculum-based authentic learning experience primarily located at the Muir Lake Community Alliance Church and the surrounding area. It is an optional kindergarten program-of-choice 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 program 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.
To apply to the 2020-2021 Nature Kindergarten Program, please complete and submit a Nature Kindergarten Application Form.
Please note: Your child must first be registered for Kindergarten at a Parkland School Division school before they can be registered in the Nature-Based Kindergarten program. Complete information on the registration process can be found on our Registration page.
NEW: Priority shall be given to Parkland School Division students, but out-of-division applicants may be considered if space and resources are available.
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 as per the PSD Kindergarten calendar, attending Nature Kindergarten on alternating days (e.g. if a student attends regular Kindergarten on Monday/Wednesday, they will attend Nature Kindergarten on Tuesday/Thursday, and vice versa).
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 Parkland School Division kindergarten 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.
Children will be supported by trained, certificated staff who use an emergent curriculum in addition to a risk management plan to include activities and learning experiences that occur outside. In order to ensure an optimal environment for the children, a teacher and educational assistant will be available to support the kindergarten students.
The program is primarily taught outdoors at Muir Lake Community Alliance Church by staff from Muir Lake School. The facility is located on neighbouring property immediately north of the school. The site offers wide open and treed terrain to form a rich natural learning environment.
On Fridays (weather permitting), classes will travel to other nearby nature spaces, including the Chickakoo Lake Recreation Area and Muir Lake Day Use Area, to expand their exploration. Future plans include a partnership with neighbouring private property owners, so that classes may access even more nearby nature.
Nature Kindergarten educators consult the forecast regularly, and weather-related safety is considered in all decisions (e.g. how far to venture away from the main camp/shelter, how long to be outside, etc.). In cases of extreme cold (-23ºC or below, including wind chill) or extreme heat (+30ºC or above), staff will limit students’ length of exposure and constantly assess the children’s comfort and safety (watching for signs of frostbite, hypothermia, heat exhaustion, etc.). An on-site warming shelter and access to indoor shelter, washrooms and learning labs ensure that learning can safely continue in such conditions.
Fees for the Nature Kindergarten Program are included in the Parkland School Division Fees and Allowances Schedule for 2020-2021 as approved by the Board of Trustees at their regular meeting on March 10, 2020. The fees for the program have been set at $6,000 or $600 per month. Nature Kindergarten fees are charged on a cost-recovery basis for the program. The fees will offset costs that include:
- Instruction from a certificated teacher
- Support from an educational assistant
- Bus transportation from either Spruce Grove or Stony Plain congregated stop locations.
- Facility rental costs at Muir Lake Community Alliance Church.
Parents participating in the Nature Kindergarten program will be responsible for taking their children directly to the congregated bus pickup/dropoff locations in Spruce Grove or Stony Plain. Pickup/drop-off locations and times will be communicated to families over the summer.
We will strive to accommodate everyone interested in registering for this program on a first-come, first-serve basis. We will be keeping a wait list in case of cancellations or if we get enough registrations for an additional class. If you are interested in having your child on our wait list, please call Muir Lake School at 780-963-3535.
For more information about the Nature Kindergarten Program, contact:
Muir Lake School