Hand-In-Hand Nature Education is an outdoor educational program located in the Comox Valley and Campbell River that is designed to offer an unique learning experience for children 2.5 to 17 years old. Our Early Years Program is for forest friends 2.5 to 5 years of age and our Forest Buds Program is for forest friends 5 to 9 years old. In addition to our school year programs, we also offer Spring Break and Summer Camp Programs, an Annual Vancouver Island Nature Education Campference for forest friends and beach buddies 2 to 17 years old, and Nature-Based Consultation Services (also available online) for all levels of education…(pre)schools, early years centres, graduate programs, recreational centres and any and all interested adults. With our “outdoor classrooms” set in nature and the 4 seasons providing multiple learning opportunities, our possibilities are endless! Our Early Years Program is offered Monday to Friday outside from 9am to 12pm, with our optional Extended Afternoon Hours Program offered at our Cumberland and Comox ROOTS Programs, which is a combination of outdoor and indoor experiences running until 3pm. All of our programs are facilitated by Nature Educators (most of whom have either an ECE, ECEA and/or B.Ed) with our Early Years Program ratio of no more than 1 Nature Educator to 8 forest friends. Our Early Years Program expand on the BC Ministry of Education’s Early Learning Framework, with an emphasis on a child-led, nature and play-based curriculum that encourages preschoolers to engage with their environment through art, music, games, physical activities and group learning. The model for our nature education programs is comprised of two components: Ecology and Adventure Education.
The Ecology component of our program focuses on becoming creative interpreters through the exploration of the natural world around us. This allows the individual student the time and space to experience the sights, sounds and smells of the natural world and then to express these feelings and make learning visible through many methods such as drawing, painting, writing, song and other expressions. Birds will be viewed through binoculars, sea creatures through nets and plants through magnifying glasses. Throughout the year we will explore, question and interpret through sensorial play, engaging activities and meaningful encounters. We will follow the interests of the children, value their passions, ideas and individual learning styles, and provide an experience to encourage developmentally appropriate in-depth learning.
Our Adventure Education component facilitates personal and interpersonal growth and is instrumental in the practice of SEDL skills (social, emotional, development and learning). Through hands-on activities, such as team building and group cooperative games, children are able to expand on their development in communication, problem solving, cooperation, trust building and risk-taking in an atmosphere that is safe, respectful and fun. Children engage in supervised risky-play, both finding their boundaries and staying safe from an internal knowledge of their bodies’ limitations, and pushing themselves to expand their skills by learning how to assess risk, problem-solving, mastery of physical skills with repetition, all while laughing and having fun! Children are guided in making connections between these activities and “real-life” situations. Families report a positive impact on home climate, child performance and interpersonal dynamics when these activities are reinforced in the home.
Activities and Educational Outcomes
Here are just a few of the Educational Outcomes associated with Forest and Nature School:
- Exploration with buckets, ropes and shovels – Skills with tools
- Drawing, shelter building and arranging items – Defining goals and planning
- Story time, language, literacy and writing activities – Verbal and written communication
- Counting objects and looking for patterns – Mathematics and visual recognition
- Memory and imagination games – Brain development and thought exploration
- Team building games – Group Cooporation and trust building
- Exploring and reflecting – Self awareness and character development
- Singing songs, rhyming, and interactive puppet and role play – Creative arts
- Gross motor development, walking, movement and – Physical fitness
- Playing and emotional well being – Having fun!