By Sierra Club BC Environmental Educator Kirsten Dallimore
Sierra Club BC’s Going Wild! Nature and Play program launched in Fall 2016. It has truly been an environmental educator and nature nut’s dream come true. Since September I have had the incredible opportunity to share my program with a dozen kindergarten classes in various classrooms in Victoria, Sooke, Royston, Cumberland and Brackendale.
Going Wild! Nature and Play was designed to get kindergarten students engaged and excited about nature in their own school community. What better way than to facilitate a program that allows students to explore through touching, smelling, looking and listening to unique nature items such as deer jaw bones, moon snails, bracket fungus and local native plants.
We spend most of the program outside exploring nature with magnifying glasses, playing nature games, storytelling, and asking lot of questions about what lives in the students’ school community. Together we have been able to find animal homes, dig up earth worms, see eagles’ nests, and smell fresh fir tip needles in their own schoolyard.
Children are engaging in nature in a way that empowers them to be true explorers of the wild. They are asking questions like “why do the trees lose their leaves?” “what does a bird use to make its nest?” and “why does the tree bark feel different on each tree?” This type of inquiry has led students to touch a variety of trees, collect materials to build their own birds’ nests, and make art out of fallen leaves and other natural materials.
I have had the privilege of exploring with kindergarten students in areas of their schoolyard or local forest that they don’t usually visit. My visit to the kindergarten classes are always special and very unique. It is all based on what the students are interested in and what kind of nature exists in their own community. Students experience something new in nature that opens their eyes and ears to what is happening around them. This encourages them to continue developing a deeper connection with nature.
One day when I was out with a class in Sooke, we visited a local forest. While the children were exploring through play, they came across a giant hole underneath a gnarly tree. Thinking this might be a home for a rabbit, together they covered the hole lightly with leaves. The students decided they would return to that same spot in a few days with their teacher. They wanted to see if a rabbit or another animal would show that it lived there by coming out of the hole and disturbing the leaves.
The kids are curious about how nature works and are happy when they have the opportunity to spend time looking for birds, touching plants and feeling the leaves. This is what enables them to develop a deeper connection with nature.
This program has been successful because teachers have decided they want to learn how to get their kindergarten students engaged in nature learning. They see the benefits of taking their students to the forest or ocean, building a garden, or being outside in addition to recess. This program was designed to support teachers in building nature connection and outdoor nature play into their classroom routine.
All the teachers I met this fall are working hard with their students to build an awareness of environmental stewardship. Below I am pleased to share with you the artwork and environmental dedication of the kindergarten class at Brackendale Elementary School. They have created their own educational pamphlet on endangered species in BC. These students are leaders in the movement to get outside and connect to nature.
Congratulations students, and good luck in your future environmental endeavors!
Download a printable version of this pamphlet to share with your students.