Teaching and Learning Resources
How are LifeWays early childhood programs unique?
LifeWays North America draws from the indications of Rudolf Steiner/Waldorf education and modern formulations such as The Irreducible Needs of Children by Brazelton and Greenspan, which emphasize nurturing the child’s sense of trust and well-being through having the same caregivers throughout the early years (i.e., continuity of care). This relationship-based care takes family life as its model, so it complements your home life and provides an environment in which your child will flourish.
LifeWays programs recognize that human relationship and activity are the essential tools for all foundational skills for life. In infancy and early childhood, daily life experience is the “curriculum” through which your child experiences healthy life rhythms and routines. Beauty, comfort, security, and connection to the living world of nature form the basis for the “Living Arts:”
When the weather is nice, young children seem to be naturally drawn outdoors. It's not surprising - there's a whole world out there to be explored. But playing outside isn't just a treat for kids. It's actually good for their development in numerous ways.
As a child care provider, outdoor play can offer the following five benefits to your students:
1. Promotes creativity
When kids play indoors, they have a certain number of toys, games and books with which to entertain themselves. Outside, the boundaries aren't as clear. There's space to run around and numerous flowers and leaves that can become props in play. Consequently, this freedom makes it much more likely that they will use their imaginations to create new games and activities, encouraging the development of creativity.
2. Strengthens muscles
As kids grow, their muscles are also developing. But unlike adults, kids shouldn't be hitting the gym. Exercise from play is typically enough to promote good muscle development, particularly outside where they have room to run and jungle gyms to climb. Playing outdoors offers a number of benefits for young children.
3. Enhances academic learning
Play doesn't offer only physical benefits. It can also enhance a child's ability to learn in the classroom. A study by the American Institutes for Research found that after temporarily attending an outdoor school, kids improved their science test scores by 27 percent. The research also saw improvements in cooperation and conflict resolution skills, areas that are important for success in the classroom.
4. Decreases stress
While they may not have a job or a mortgage to worry about, kids deal with stress too. One way to counter this problem is to spend time outdoors. According to researchers at the University of Illinois, the stress levels of children fall within minutes of seeing green spaces. Time spent outside at a park or in a grassy area outside the classroom can help your students relax during the school day.
5. Increases physical activity
Cardiovascular exercise is important for people of all ages. While adults may get their heart pumping on a treadmill or stationary bicycle, children get the cardio they need in more casual activities, usually in the form of play. Your students can't move around much indoors, but when they take their play outdoors, there's plenty of room for movement. Whether it's running around in a game of tag or soccer, including outdoor play in your curriculum can increase your students' daily physical activity.
Childcare center naturalized outdoor learning environments (OLEs) stimulate the diversity of children’s play experience and contribute to their healthy development. Best practice design of OLEs incorporates trees, shrubs, vines, flowers, grasses, edible fruits and vegetables—to connect children with nature and diversify their outdoor experience. This InfoSheet discusses the benefits of connecting children to nature and presents examples of simple ways to naturalize outdoor learning environments in childcare centers.
Read more at naturalearning.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Benefits-of-Connecting-Children-with-Nature_InfoSheet.pdf
by Gwen Dewar, PhD
Research suggests that active exploration wires the brain, and helps kids develop powerful intuitions about concepts central to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
What happens in a child's brain when he or she plays outdoors? What do kids learn by sticking their hands in a rushing brook, or dropping seeds into the wind?
You've heard that children sharpen their spatial skills by playing with construction toys and jigsaw puzzles. The rationale is easy to grasp: Hands-on activities allow kids to inspect shapes from different visual angles and perspectives. So they don't just improve fine motor skills. Through practice, they train their brains to imagine and rotate shapes in their own, internal, 3-D simulator. They learn to see with the mind's eye.
It makes sense, and so we recognize the value of puzzles and building blocks for early cognitive development. But spatial toys aren't the only materials that children can learn from, and hands-on activities can do more than improve a child's mental rotation abilities. Active, outdoor play can enhance learning, and spark insights about the physical world.
Fascinating studies support this idea. They indicate that kids learn new "motion" verbs faster when they perform the movements themselves. Children show better comprehension of a story if they act it out, rather than merely repeat the words. And hands-on learning helps students understand physical interactions and natural phenomena. It isn't a passing developmental phase, or a quirk of early childhood. Rather, it seems to be a general characteristic of our brains: Adults and children alike benefit from active, physical learning opportunities....
Read the entire article.
from The New York Times
By Lillian Mongeau
Dec. 29, 2015
SEATTLE — Three-year-old Desi Sorrelgreen’s favorite thing about his preschool is “running up hills.” His classmate Stelyn Carter, 5, likes to “be quiet and listen to birds — crows, owls and chickadees,” as she put it. And for Joshua Doctorow, 4, the best part of preschool just may be the hat he loves to wear to class (black and fuzzy, with flaps that come down over his ears).
All three children are students at Fiddleheads Forest School here, where they spend four hours a day, rain or shine, in adjacent cedar grove “classrooms” nestled among the towering trees of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens. The program, in its third year, is less than seven miles from Microsoft, which means some parents sit in front of computers all day inventing the digital future, while Fiddleheads children make letters out of sticks or cart rocks around in wheelbarrows.
Founded in 2012 by Kit Harrington, a certified preschool teacher, and Sarah Heller, a naturalist and science educator, Fiddleheads is part of a larger national trend that goes beyond Waldorf education, which has long emphasized outdoor play, even in inclement weather.
There’s the Chippewa Nature Center in Midland, Mich., founded in 2007, where children wear hats and mittens during daily outdoor sessions in the frigid winter months. At the All Friends Nature School in San Diego, which became a nature preschool in 2006, children often spend mornings making sand castles at the beach. And at the Drumlin Farm Community Preschool in Lincoln, Mass., founded in 2008, children learn to feed farm animals, grow vegetables and explore the farm’s many acres of wildlife habitat.
Whether the schools are emerging in reaction to concerns that early education has become increasingly academic or simply because parents think traipsing around in the woods sounds like more fun than sitting at a desk, they are increasingly popular.
Read the entire article.
From The Atlantic
The New Preschool Is Crushing Kids
Today’s young children are working more, but they’re learning less.
by Erika Christakis
Jan/Feb 2016 Issue
Step into an American preschool classroom today and you are likely to be bombarded with what we educators call a print-rich environment, every surface festooned with alphabet charts, bar graphs, word walls, instructional posters, classroom rules, calendars, schedules, and motivational platitudes—few of which a 4-year-old can “decode,” the contemporary word for what used to be known as reading.
Because so few adults can remember the pertinent details of their own preschool or kindergarten years, it can be hard to appreciate just how much the early-education landscape has been transformed over the past two decades. The changes are not restricted to the confusing pastiche on classroom walls. Pedagogy and curricula have changed too, most recently in response to the Common Core State Standards Initiative’s kindergarten guidelines. Much greater portions of the day are now spent on what’s called “seat work” (a term that probably doesn’t need any exposition) and a form of tightly scripted teaching known as direct instruction, formerly used mainly in the older grades, in which a teacher carefully controls the content and pacing of what a child is supposed to learn.
One study, titled “Is Kindergarten the New First Grade?,” compared kindergarten teachers’ attitudes nationwide in 1998 and 2010 and found that the percentage of teachers expecting children to know how to read by the end of the year had risen from 30 to 80 percent. The researchers also reported more time spent with workbooks and worksheets, and less time devoted to music and art. Kindergarten is indeed the new first grade, the authors concluded glumly. In turn, children who would once have used the kindergarten year as a gentle transition into school are in some cases being held back before they’ve had a chance to start. A study out of Mississippi found that in some counties, more than 10 percent of kindergartners weren’t allowed to advance to first grade.
Read the entire article at www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/01/the-new-preschool-is-crushing-kids/419139/