Nature and Wildlife Discovery Center


River Campus and Raptor Center

The mission of the Nature and Wildlife Discovery Center is to promote environmental stewardship and population health through nature education, wildlife rehabilitation, and outdoor recreation.
Nature and Wildlife Discovery Center

NEW! – Earthkeeper Nature Preschool

 

Have you heard about Nature Preschools and wished that this kind of preschool was available in our area?

Are you looking for a program that combines the many benefits of fresh air, open space and Nature play with a progressive early childhood curriculum?

STARTING THIS AUGUST!

EARTHKEEPER NATURE PRESCHOOL

An outdoor based Nature Preschool serving the Pueblo area.

 “The best classroom and the richest cupboard is roofed only by the sky.” ~ Margaret McMillanAll young children – girls, boys, big, small, tall, short, outgoing, shy – are welcome at Earthkeeper Nature Preschool!

Why a Nature Preschool? There is a new movement underway in the field of early childhood education. With its roots in Europe, followed by their emergence in the Pacific Northwest and New England, Nature Preschools (or Forest Preschools, Nature Kindergartens) are now found in many locations throughout the US.

The reasons for the Nature Preschools are many. There is no denying the fact that the prevalence of various forms of mass-produced technology has impacted our society on many levels. One such impact is the amount of time that today’s children spend “plugged-in” to one form of electronic device or another. What is often lost through all this tech-driven time is spending time outdoors. This trend has many negative outcomes associated with it – poor physical health, increased prevalence of many diseases, mental health problems, and a lack of understanding of or interest in the natural environment, to name a few. These impacts are not limited to adults and older children. In fact, lives impaired by such an enmeshment with technological gadgetry often begin in early childhood.

Among the reasons for the Nature Preschool movement is the desire to counter what is sometimes called the indoor-ification of early childhood. What comes along with indoor-ification – a preoccupation with academics and testing; over-fascination with and over-use of technology; less, or no time for play, recess, art and music; the increased use of worksheets…  is why Nature Preschools are becoming more and more popular among parents and early childhood advocates.

“If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life…” ~ Rachel Carson

The Earthkeeper Nature Preschool Program centers on the emotional, social, physical, self-help and academic development of the child. We use Nature and the outdoors as the focus of our program, integrating Nature awareness, science, music, arts, mathematics, language arts, reading, and skill work into a vibrant curriculum. Through experience-based learning, we seek to help children gain confidence in themselves and a love for the natural world around them, supporting the strong excitement and zest for learning that is natural in the young child.

  • In order to begin to read and perform other academic tasks, the children must first gather meaning from the world and develop an awareness of concepts.
  • In order to gather meaning from the world, children must have many satisfying sensory and interactive experiences – they must touch, feel, smell, hear and see. Perceptual development follows. As children interpret their sensory experiences, their minds continue to develop and expand.
  • Utilizing both the Mountain Campus and the River Campus as our classrooms, children receive countless opportunities to experience the wonders of Nature in a diversity of natural habitats and communities.
  • Our wondrous mountain, river and prairie settings beg the children to explore and experience nature and animals at the doorstep.

“The first five years have so much to do with how the next 80 turn out.” ~ Bill Gates

The Earthkeeper Nature Preschool program is geared toward helping children develop habits of observation and discovery, questioning, listening and problem solving. Enveloped in an environment of fun where they feel loved and respected, they develop an awareness of the uniqueness of who they are and how to express their feelings. They learn that they are free to make choices; as long as they stay within the limits of consideration for people, things, and the natural world, they do not always have to conform. An open-ended program like ours prepares children to utilize their intellectual and creative abilities in future learning tasks, and in successfully relating to the natural world and to society.

Earthkeeper Nature Preschool Staff are educated and experienced in early childhood education and environmental education. Each teacher brings his or her own expertise and energy to help provide a high-quality, Nature-based early childhood program. We understand that preschoolers thrive on guidance from, as well as interaction with their caretakers. Response to their conversation and actions helps them develop language skills as well as increase their understanding of the world.

The heart of the Earthkeeper Nature Preschool Program is the natural world. Hence, we strive to spend the majority of our time outdoors at both the Mountain Park and the River Campus. Each campus also has an indoor classroom that will be utilized in the event of adverse outdoor conditions (e.g. extreme cold) that necessitate the need to be indoors.

“Teaching children about the natural world should be treated as one of the most important events in their lives.” ~ Thomas Berry

Recent research corroborates that Nature Preschools provide the ideal setting for the healthy development of the young child:

  • Increasing evidence suggests that access to nature and green space provides children with a myriad of cognitive, emotional, and physical benefits, such as increased ability to concentrate, improved academic performance, reduced stress and aggression levels, and reduced risk of obesity. (Faber Taylor & Kuo, 2006; Kellert, 2005, Lieberman & Hoody, 1998; Louv, 2007; Wells & Evans, 2003)
  • Research indicates that nature buffers the impact of life stress on children and helps them deal with adversity. The greater the amount of nature exposure, the greater the benefits. Nature exposure is indeed a protective factor, contributing to the resilience of children. Conversely, if nature is lacking in the lives of children, it is just one more strike against children, especially those who already face tremendous disadvantages. (Wells, N., & Evans, G., 2003)
  • Statistically significant relationships were found between the use of urban open green spaces and self-reported experiences of stress – regardless of the informant’s age, sex and socio-economic status. The results suggest that the more often a person visits urban open green spaces, the less often he or she will report stress-related illnesses.            (Grahn, U.A. Stigsdotter, 2004)
  • Studies found that children engage in more creative forms of play, and play more cooperatively, in the green areas than in paved areas of schoolyards. (Bell and Dyment, 2006)
  • Play in nature is especially important for developing capacities for creativity, problem-solving, and intellectual development. (Kellert, 2005).
  • Studies indicate that proximity to, views of, and exposure to natural settings increases children’s ability to focus and enhances cognitive abilities. (Wells, 2000)
  • Outdoor-based activities for young children build resilience through heightened sensory awareness, high positive expectations, and a clear and developing understanding of one’s strengths relating to accomplishment. (Breslin, 2005)

  • Earthkeeper Nature Preschool plans to begin operating in August 2018.
  • We project to operate in both the Mountain Park Campus in Beulah and the River Campus in Pueblo.
  • We will be licensed under the Colorado Department of Human Services.
  • Ages accepted: 4 – 6.
  • Enroll in one of four separate sessions, each with a maximum of 15 children: Monday / Wednesday morning, Monday / Wednesday afternoon, Tuesday / Thursday morning, Tuesday / Thursday afternoon.
  • Round-trip transportation to Beulah will be available.
  • Financial assistance will be available.
  • The vast majority of time will be spent outdoors, with indoor spaces available when weather conditions warrant.
  • More details, including information on enrolling and cost of program, will be available in the coming weeks.

For more information, please contact Dave Van Manen at mpec@hikeandlearn.org

 

Learn more about Nature Preschools:

The Cognitive Benefits of Kindergarten in the Forest Atlantic article on a Forest Kindergarten in Finland

Preschool Without Walls A New York Times article on a Seattle area Forest Preschool.

“The young child is biologically programmed to develop in concert with the natural world.” ~ David Sobel

For more information, please contact Dave Van Manen at mpec@hikeandlearn.org