Tumbling Down the Green: Nature-Based Play and Learning in Young Children

Tumbling Down the Green: Nature-Based Play and Learning in Young Children

Mubina Hassanali Kirmani (Towson University, USA), Ilene B. Grodzinsky (Towson University Child Care Center, USA), Nicole M. Vasanth (Towson University Child Care Center, USA) and Barbara M. Steele (Towson University, USA)
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 25
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2711-5.ch004
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Abstract

Interactions with natural surroundings provide young children with an opportunity to build knowledge, promote social skills, develop emotional dispositions, and can help them develop a caring and positive attitude toward themselves and the environment. This chapter focuses on the partnership between Towson University College of Education and the campus-based University Child Care Center and their concerted effort to bring nature-based experiences to children in spaces both outside and inside their classrooms. The authors also provide specific examples of how recycled waste is used to create instructional materials and games that help the classroom community to become more eco-conscious. The chapter also includes suggestions for future educational research into how children interact and gain knowledge from the environment and the impact this has on children's growth and development. Recommendations are provided for early childhood educators to advocate for green spaces and include environmental activities for children, families, schools, and communities.
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Introduction

This chapter explores the partnership between Towson University (TU) College of Education, Early Childhood Education (ECE) Department and the Towson University Child Care Center. The Child Care Center has served as a lab school for TU faculty and pre-service teachers to observe and work with young children ages 2-5. The ECE Department and the Child Care Center share the importance of implementing developmentally appropriate practices with young children. The current state-of-the-art Child Care Center building includes a colorful, open, child-friendly indoor space and an outdoor nature playscape. Accordingly, the Child Care Center upholds that,

The arts and nature programs are rooted in the ideal that the early childhood years should be full of joy, inquiry, discovery, challenge, healthy risk, and secure relationships! We believe that the earliest memories of a school environment should be full of learning experiences which stimulate all of the senses, includes ample outdoor play in our nature playscape, making mud pies, jumping in mud puddles, and climbing on rocks…. (The University Child Care Center. (n.d.). https://www.towson.edu/childcare/.)

The authors, therefore, will focus on one of the key features of the University Child Care Center namely the outdoor nature playscape along with the indoor nature-based classroom spaces and activities. It will also describe the kinds of play and learning observed by the teachers at the center. The authors provide examples of materials and activities created by in-service and pre-service teachers from discarded recyclable materials. Additionally, possible areas for future inquiry and research are presented. Recommendations are also proposed on how early childhood educators can advocate for green spaces and plan eco-conscious activities for young children in any classroom as they move through the grades.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Eco-Conscious: Individual choices in the use of materials and activities with the goal to protect nature.

Eco-Centric: Expressions of deep personal and spiritual connection and care towards nature.

Playscape: An outside play area created for children using nature and predominantly nature-based materials.

Environmental Degradation: Ruin or depletion of nature normally by human activity.

Environmental Conservation: Individual or group efforts aimed at preserving earth’s natural resources and the ecosystem.

Developmentally Appropriate: Materials and activities that are suitable to the children because they match the skill development of the children, usually by age.

Interconnectedness: The awareness that humans and their activities are intertwined with all aspects of nature and how human decisions impact the environment.

Nature-Based: Set in a natural environment or setting.

Recycling: Reusing objects and material that would be discarded.

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