REI makes the case for outdoor preschools

kids playing in the forest at Colorado Springs forest school nature kindergarten

“Programs that get children outdoors, moving, playing and connecting with nature—and with each other—offer invaluable foundational skills.” – Pediatric Occupational Therapist Angela Hanscom

A few days ago while I was adding a post to our Instagram feed with some of the latest photos, an ad from REI popped up titled “Are Forest Preschools The Way Of The Future?” I clicked on the ad and was delighted to discover a whole series of blog posts on REI’s blog making a case for forest schools, also known as outdoor preschools or nature kindergartens.

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Learning About Birds, part 2

“Art is a place for children to learn to trust their ideas, themselves, and to explore what is possible. ~ Maryann F. Kohl

Welcome to the second blog post about our bird-focused curriculum from January. In this post I want to share with you all the beautiful artistic projects the children created during this period while learning about birds.

When creating our curriculums we try to plan the arts and crafts projects to parallel the current learning theme, as it helps children to connect deeper with the subject we are learning about, practice through art their new knowledge and make it their own.

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Learning about birds, part 1

Learning about birds at Colorado Springs nature kindergarten forest school nature preschool in Palmer Lake

Learning about nature and developing closer connection with it is one of our fundamental goals as a forest school or nature kindergarten. So we dedicated the month of January to learning about birds and it was such a hit with the children so I wanted to share with you what we did in this past month.

It was a slow-paced and fun learning block stretched over the entire month of January to give the children plenty of time to connect with it, absorb the new knowledge and enjoy all the activities we had prepared as a part of it. To keep learning fun and engaging without taking away much time from children’s free and active play we always try find ways to carry out our lessons and activities both indoors and outdoors. The learning blocks are brief (5-10 minutes at the most) and occur few times throughout the day, incorporating either a story, a game, or arts and crafts project.

As we ended up covering a lot of ground, I thought it would be best to separate this topic into 3 separate posts. Here is part 1.

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Winter Solstice festival

As children at our school come from families celebrating different winter holidays (Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year) we wanted to make sure our forest school’s celebration was inclusive for all. And so we chose to celebrate Winter Solstice as nature’s milestone where we reach the shortest day and longest night. The day that truly marks the beginning of winter.

All of our school festivals always include some beautiful seasonal crafts, family games and a short movie at the end. But we wanted our Winter Solstice celebration to be the most special, full of winter magic and beauty. And so we brought Grandpa Frost into our celebration — the magical character who creates the winter itself and also brings gifts to children 🙂 . Scroll down and enjoy our photo gallery from this memorable day. We are very grateful to our wonderful Tuesday and Thursday teacher and a talented photographer Adrianna Carlson for capturing all these beautiful moments from our celebration of winter and childhood.

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Preparing for the winter holidays

Real Red Riding Hoods forest school Colorado Springs Winter Holidays

At the end of every summer I always feel sad and it is hard for me to let go of the warm sunny days. But as the cold winter days roll in, I am reminded of how much I always loved winter growing up. The large snowflakes slowly falling from the sky always seemed mesmerizing and calming. Rolling in the snow, watching our dog running through it, sledding — I loved it all! And then there were those extra special moments of coming into a warm home after hours of outdoor play in the sparkly cold, the home with a smell of savory soup or a pie.

And winter holidays felt like utter magic of course! My family’s friends had a cabin in the mountains where all of us spent many winter holidays. And I remember as a small child walking to our friends mountain cabin through snowy mountains, feeling tired and cold. It was already getting dark. And then coming out into a clearing where the cabins were and seeing gleaming lanterns set all around in the snow. I still can see the magical beauty of it all if I close my eyes!

Real Red Riding Hoods forest school Colorado Springs Winter Holidays

So as the winter holidays are just around the corner we wanted to make sure we made this time extra special for all the children attending our forest school.

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Learning about wolves

learning about wolves in Colorado Springs Real Red Riding Hoods forest school

Our wolf study was done with children ages 3-9 years old and turned out to be a great success. We noticed that through the time we spent on the subject using play, crafts, stories and live interactions with these amazing animals, the children have picked up a great deal of knowledge. And their perception of the wolf has formed based on actual understanding of this animal and its characteristics, rather than ages-old biased folklore, movies and general misconceptions of the ‘big bad wolf’.

We are very proud of the results accomplished, and are planning to return to the wolf study again later in Spring, around the time when pups are born in the wild.

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Hanging out with the wolves

learning about wolves in Colorado Springs Real Red Riding Hoods forest school

We are very excited to have opened our Winter season at the school on December 10th. And we kicked things off with a very special event — a meet and greet with the wolves preceded by a mini-unit on wolves at the school where children learned about this majestic animal. The meet and greet was arranged through Colorado Wolf Adventures — is a licensed business conducting wolf walks at the Garden of the Gods. Their wolf walks are an unforgettable experience and we highly recommend them for educational group activities or special hikes!

learning about wolves in Colorado Springs Real Red Riding Hoods forest school

After we got to spend about 20-30 minutes of intimate time with these majestic animals (thank you Peggy of Colorado Wolf Adventures ❤️) we headed over to some picnic tables for hot chocolate with cookies and some follow-up learning and craft activities.

Here, in this blog post — Learning About Wolves — you can read about our learning activities, games and crafts that we did as a part of our learning about wolves week with kids ages 3-9 years old.

And now onto the photos from that memorable day with the wolves.

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Beautiful autumn inspired books for children

Gerda muller books

Hello forest school families and friends, it’s been a while since I managed to find time to add a post to our blog. The things at the school have been incredibly busy. In addition to the usual daily whirlwind of things we also got baby chickens and so the pressure is on to finish that chicken coop! We set up and planted a large flower garden which we need to water daily by hand since we don’t have an automated system in place yet. We also created 2 large strawberry beds and planted few more berry bushes (also all watered by hand with a bucket as it is too far from the spigot 😅). And we had our Summer Farewell party last Friday at the school which was most magical. I hope I get a chance to share some really beautiful photos with you soon!

Children autumn inspired books

But as we said our farewells to this wonderful summer and set our eyes and hearts towards the change of season I wanted to share with you some very beautiful autumn inspired books. The original post about these books is on my personal blog about sustainable living where you can see many more photos and read about why we love these books.

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Beautiful nature-inspired craft with baking soda playdough

DIY baking soda playdough

Can you believe it is already middle of August? This summer flew by way too fast! Are you excited about fall approaching or are you like me and wish the summer never ended? 🙂

So here is a very simple and beautiful craft you can make with your children using a couple of very basic ingredients and any nature finds you have handy. I love making these medallions, which could be hung on a string individually in child’s room or hung on a piece of driftwood into a sort of mobile.

In fall you can make same versions with beautiful autumn leaves and comes winter they would make beautiful Christmas tree decorations.

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