As teachers put their final touches on classroom bulletin boards, and students pack their backpacks with freshly sharpened pencils and notebooks, faculties are gearing up for the school year that for many include exciting new initiatives.
One potent example is The Wheeler School’s (Providence, Rhode Island) introduction of “Forest Fridays” for their Nursery, Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten classrooms. In an article recently posted on the school’s website titled Into the Woods, We Must Go, Laurie Flynn, Wheeler’s Director of Strategic Communications, describes her first time experiencing this pilot program:
“I am following a line of 3 year-olds into the woods. Their feet hit the soft carpet of leaves and pine needles with an energetic rhythm not yet syncopated to their fellow walkers as most older hikers would do.
They are led — and also followed — by Wheeler teachers, eager as they are to explore this section of the 120-acre Wheeler Farm campus. Driven by curiosity, the Early Childhood students from Nursery, Pre-Kindergarten, and Kindergarten explore the Farm with its fields and woodlands in a new program dubbed ‘Forest Fridays.’
Sunlight slants through the tall trees onto the Nursery students at the old Wheeler Pageant grounds, once home to faeries and other mythological creatures from past theatrical traditions performed nearly a century ago. Nearby at Wheeler Pond, headwaters to the Runnins River of Massachusetts, 4 year-olds build forts at their ‘Town Circle’ noticing nearby beaver dams and building their own teepees with fallen tree limbs, while at a third location (each location was chosen by the students, themselves) the kindergartners explore a smaller vernal pond; howling like pups in a wolf pack called to the wild, then later turning into ‘chipmunks’ at snack time.” Into the Woods, We Must Go, Laurie Flynn, The Wheeler School Website
In the article Laurie notes, “Access to learning has no boundaries. And the teachers of the new outdoor program understand there are many benefits to this type of exploration.”
Given The Wheeler School’s commitment to offering exciting and innovative educational environments for students to learn in, it’s no wonder where the inspiration for “Forest Fridays” stemmed from. “The new program is a perfect fit for Wheeler’s Farm campus because after all, what happens on a farm?” writes Laurie, “There’s plenty of water, sunlight and cultivated growth to help seedlings thrive.” Into the Woods, We Must Go, Laurie Flynn, The Wheeler School Website
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