The human being belongs to the natural world: that is why during the early childhood, the need to be in contact with nature emerges spontaneously, like an innate characteristic of the evolving human process. None the less, in big cities our children grow in artificial environments, concrete landscapes, distant from the natural settings from where we stern.
Throughout time, that is how classrooms with artificial walls were created, with activities planned and controlled by expert advisors, who guarantee safety in educational spaces, furthermore the erroneous assumption where nature constitutes a risky space for students due to diverse often unpredictable circumstances and the microorganisms that inhabit them.
In CIEDI International school we know that learning in contact with nature is crucial for the development of beings able to see beyond their immediate context, able to understand and navigate challenges in diverse backgrounds. Therefore our pedagogic approach promotes transdiciplinary teaching in natural environments since the earliest years in Pre-school, encouraging children to explore the world and to build knowledge in this way.
Now following, we explain why it is important to encourage a connection with nature and how we put it into practice in our school:
In general, nature has always been the mean and resources through human beings have unraveled to acquire their abilities and knowledge.
The article: Benefits of learning in contact with nature (‘Beneficios del aprendizaje en contacto con la naturaleza’) written by Jesus Guillén M.D., reveals that when children are exposed to green environments the brain suffers changes in terms of the grey and white matter, present in some of its areas like the prefrontal cortex and the cerebellum, benefitting memory and counteracting lack of attention.
Furthermore nature has an important role at a biological level because it facilitates the production of hormones like endorphins and serotonin which reduce the excessive release of cortisol, which is the main responsible hormone for generating stress and anxiety. So, when children have frequent encounters with natural spaces, they are much happier and calm.
At CIEDI we are aware that nature is a great ally for the holistic education of our students, as Lilia Gonzalez the preschool coordinator explains, learning environments cannot be reduced to four walls because we have an approach of an experimental education and this benefits when the learning context goes beyond the classroom.
In other words, we conceive nature like a transversal element in all knowledge fields therefore aside from designing learning experiences and games out of the classroom, we integrate it as such in the educational process though our Nature’s classroom approach since it’s clear for us, exploration and experiences allow to build a truly meaningful learning.
These are the 3 ways to enhance the bond with nature through education, which we identify and establish at CIEDI:
1. From the Socio-emotional dimension:
At CIEDI we focus on shaping world citizens with social and emotional skills that build their own life project and relate harmoniously with others and their surroundings to be real agents of change.
For this reason, we have conceived nature as a space to benefit the socio-affective development of our students in which the affective bonds in between students and their teachers are also fostered, building a true collaborative learning model.
In one of our school trips, a three-year-old girl afraid of insects refused to look closely at a tree trunk with termites, but finally manages to do so when she is encouraged and supported by her peers, which also allowed her to manage her feelings and face the challenge.
2. From the Intellectual dimension:
It is clear that natural development of children is based on their curiosity to explore their surroundings, but often the educational system generates limitations through confinement in a classroom.
Therefore when they observe a leaf floating in a pond or just wonder why is it green and no other color, curiosity leads them to investigate the reasons for these natural phenomena and events, thus promoting reasoning skills. Afterwards, by the use of guiding questions, us as educators come along in the construction of their concepts.
Same happens with language development. When in the middle of their exploring, children find something they still don’t recognize, establish their own definitions and widen vocabulary permanently. Thus, everything that the child sees, he/she will verbalize it and refines his/her interaction with peers and teachers.
3. From the Physical dimension:
During classes and experiences we design to foster education in natural contexts, we prove daily that nature has a decisive role in the physical development of our smaller students, especially in strengthening their gross motor skills in the first five years of life which with time, constitutes as a success indicator in their fine motor development.
To this end according to Lilia, learning through child play and grounds with diverse topographic conditions (flat, mountainous, hilly, undermined) allow kids to improve their abilities to run, jump, climb and in general move by themselves and, at the same time, allows them to reinforce their confidence to take on these physical challenges.
In this sense, CIEDI is pioneer in Colombia in the implementation of nature’s classroom program framed within the teaching approach of nature’s pedagogy that establishes nature as the center of the experimental learning for children.
Nature’s classroom holistic education in middle of nature:
Thus, with the purpose of returning to the essence of simplicity and retaking the approach of an holistic education, at CIEDI we recognized the need to promote contact with nature, forgotten in traditional education system, aware that its exploration through senses is the best way to achieve emotional, intellectual and physical skills that must be developed in early childhood.
Hence, our nature’s classroom proposal aims to encourage children to investigate the natural world surrounding them through exploration, so they can form scientific, social, mathematical, technological and ecological concepts which will facilitate forging the tools they will need for life.
Currently, in order to continue enhancing holistic education in different green contexts and specialize more in this area, our teachers are in a training process to obtain the Advanced International Certificate L1 in Nature Pedagogy.
In addition as Laura Rey, our admissions director explains “Nature’s classroom as a pedagogical project has sufficiently solid theoretical and conceptual foundations to be recognized as an state-of-the-art teaching approach, as other rich countries such as Australia, United States and Scotland are located, where its impact on learning and skill development has been shown to be achieved in no other way.”
¡In our school what is natural is to enjoy learning!
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