Your professionalism and warmth are such a brilliant combination to provide strong (yet gentle) stewardship of these souls in this life. I feel so blessed to know you and to work along side you.
With great respect for who you are,
The Forest Element involves walking from the school into an adjacent 52 hectare park where the children are guided in exploration of creeks, ponds, forest trails, mud puddles, flora and fauna. Teachers bring equipment to foster exploration and learning: tarps for rainy day shelter-building, measuring tapes for tree trunks, pots and pans for “mud kitchen,” colour swatches for scavenger hunts, ropes to build make-shift swings, a hammock for children to share—the list goes on and is ever evolving, as teachers respond to the interests of the kids in the forest setting. Children are given access to explore nature in safe, but hands-on ways, like climbing stumps, building with sticks and rocks, digging for worms, and balancing on logs. Their confidence grows over time as they realize how much they can do, and by forming bonds with classmates during these mini-adventures.
The forest element is enhanced by weekly outdoor yoga sessions guided by Joani Mortensen, a certified children’s yoga teacher, therapist and early childhood educator. Ms. Mortensen leads special yoga sessions that respond to the children’s energy level and group dynamics and are based on nature appreciation, self-acceptance and self-awareness. Children build mandalas out of collected forest materials, sing, and practice mindfulness and yoga exercises.
A particularly innovative component of the Forest Element, are the monthly week-long immersion classes at Farmer Shari’s Hazelmere Pumpkin Patch. Here the children are given access to a real working farm, where they learn about life cycles in a hands-on way. The children collect freshly laid eggs, see chicks hatch before their eyes, observe frog eggs growing in ponds, learn about incubators, how wells work, and how to pick corn and feed goats, pigs, rabbits, geese and llamas. In a world where our connections to farm life are ever more tenuous, these lucky kids get a taste of life on a farm, and have a chance to get their hands dirty and develop an understanding of what it takes to grow food and care for animals on a regular basis and across seasons. Farmer Shari’s background in early childhood care comes shining through as she guides the students through her farm with the same level of compassion and patience as the Precious Seeds teachers.
Children with sensory challenges who might struggle in a classroom setting come alive in this holistic program, where they are encouraged to use all of their senses.
Precious Seeds Montessori’s unique blend of modalities and settings creates a place where every child is nurtured mind, body and soul. The school takes some of the best, most progressive and creative ideas about early education and blends them into one incredible, inventive program that I believe deserves to be considered for the child care award of excellence.
During the forest school, the preschoolers walk into neighbouring Crescent Park. I have attended some of these outdoor excursions, where children venture forth on the path with curious and excited steps. Each excursion starts with a circle, including an engaging and interactive song and/or lesson. In addition, each forest school day has its own unique approach, so while one day they may go to the duck pond to observe wildlife, the next becomes building shelters, or learning to use a specific tool such as binoculars or whittling instruments. There is also time for unstructured play, which is both guided and closely supervised, which enables the children to make their own discoveries in the forest, ask curious questions about the natural environment, and promotes student-cantered learning.
As the forest school happens regardless of the weather (except extreme winds, when tree fall might occur) the preschoolers become hardy and resilient to the elements. I have seen my son, after three hours, return from forest school in the pouring rain, mud up to his waist, with a look of absolute delight on his face. He has learned to not only tolerate poor weather when most kids would hole themselves up indoors, but to thrive in the unpredictable outdoors.
I believe that Miss Christine and Precious Seeds Montessori Preschool have shown exemplary innovation in developing and implementing this non-traditional learning environment. Their creative and novel approach facilitates active, curious and engaging experiences for preschoolers, leaving them more resilient and resourceful, all the while cultivating a connection to the natural world.