Children cultivate critical thinking skills when they closely observe their surroundings and record what they notice. So every Monday, the kindergarteners walk to a local wetland area called Bridgewalk Pond, bringing clipboards and writing implements to record their observations. I see the amazing impact that the outdoors has on our young learners. They are so excited and eager to investigate nature. They are immediately drawn to inspect living things in a gentle and respectful manner, demonstrating patience as they peacefully observe. They find a quiet and independent “sitting spot” and use their senses to interact with the natural world. Nature instills a sense of calmness in the children as they draw, write, and trace their surroundings.
While fostering more opportunities for outdoor learning, children take ownership and responsibility for their surroundings. I am surprised and inspired to learn alongside my kindergartners. They have no need for typical teaching materials. Sticks, berries, leaves, and other natural treasures became props for learning and play. By visiting the wetlands several times through the changing seasons, the kindergarteners will have the chance to observe not only what nature has to offer, but they will also notice the subtle changes that are occurring in their surroundings. Through these connections, they begin the shift from critical to analytical thinking, tracking not only what has changed, but also speculating (guessing) why and then checking out the accuracy of their guesses. Rich, deep learning for us all.
Kindergarten: Lead Teacher