Archive for the ‘Creative arts’ Category

As early childhood programs go, it’s no surprise that our educational approach is unique. Daily outdoor learning and child-led exploration, in all weather, is hard to come by in most preschool settings.

With unstructured, child-directed play and exploration as the cornerstone of what we do in The Nature Preschool, it’s also no surprise that creative arts experiences are prominent. Visit the National Art Standards for more info.

Though all of the teachers embrace the arts and weave them across our curriculum, I have never tried to articulate all of the rich experiences we offer.

While attending a summer arts institute for graduate students at Towson University, the role of arts integration in our program became even more defined. The course examined each art form (dance/creative movement, music, visual arts and theater) in the context of early learners. As the course moved through each art standard, examples overflowed of how we infuse the arts into students’ experiences. Here are a few examples of arts integration in The Nature Preschool:

Dance & Creative Movement Arts:
-We move our bodies like animals (EX. turtles, snakes, grasshoppers, birds, deer) as we try to “become” them
-We move our bodies to represent natural processes (EX. rain/water cycle, snowflakes falling, seeds sprouting, twirling fall leaves)
-We dance in the wind using twig ribbon wands
-We practice yoga poses and meditation/breathing techniques
-We dance and invent dances to respond to natural sounds or music

Theater & Dramatic Arts:
-We pretend to be animals through puppet play
-We invent scenes and stories by dressing up in costumes or using props
-We make props that can be used in dramatic play (EX. leaf crowns or capes)
-We participate in puppet shows as characters and/or as an audience
-We write/dictate stories which fellow students act out

-We respond to nature with our own sounds (EX. we mimic a rainstorm with our bodies as instruments)
-We sing and learn songs, many with sign language
-We listen to different kind of music, we often dance to respond to music
-We experiment with instruments (real and found)
-We sing or play instruments as we try to keep a beat
-We experient with sounds by finding natural/recycled objects that can be transformed into instruments
-We identify patterns in sound (EX. woodpeckers tapping or frogs calling)
-We listen to outdoor sounds and try identify them
-We record our voices or sounds in nature; we do this in different seasons and compare how the recordings sound different
-We use songs as greetings and good-byes
-We use songs to transition between activities
-We use instruments to cue transitions (EX. our rainstick signifies clean-up, the squirrel bell signifies gathering outdoors)
-We visit places in the community to hear music (EX. Baltimore Symphony Orchestra)
-We celebrate through music (EX. our annual Spring Sing Campfire)

Visual Arts
-We observe nature and reflect on our observations in nature journals
-We use a range of art materials to express ideas or reflect on learning
-We create our own art materials (EX. melted heart crayons, walnut or raspberry die, spice paintings, homemade scented play dough, moon dough)
-We discover and practice traditional art forms (EX. wool felting, embroidery/hand sewing)
-We make observations about each other’s art and the art of illustrators; this helps children use art language (line, color, shape, texture, space) and develop aesthetic judgments
-We explore a variety of art processes (print-making, painting, drawing, sculpture, relief, sewing, papier mache, clay, collage)
-We discuss how producing art and looking at art makes us feel
-We respond to music through art experiences
-We create patterns and/or shapes in art taking inspiration from nature
-We record trail experiences through artistic exploration (EX. lines that indicate how a bird or squirrel moves across the path, making tree bark rubbings)
-We learn about artists and artwork from other cultures, especially through families sharing during classes and visits to local museums
-We utilize art to illustrate concepts we are learning about (EX. cycle of a seed or body parts of animals)

Although I am energized with even more arts integration ideas to try, I wanted to reflect on some of what we already do. Child-led experiences are the basis of early childhood education; they are also the best vehicle for exploring the arts and the natural world. The two inherently go hand in hand.

I hope through this reflection you, too, might glean more ideas to try with the lil’ ones in your life!


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How do The Nature Preschool students discover spring? Here’s what we were up to this week, the first official week of spring:

  • We visited the stream and sloshed our way through the mud – even getting stuck in all this melting snow
  • We made nests in the meadow to mimic what many animals are starting to do
  • We soaked up sunshine in the meadow while lying on blankets
  • We journaled in the meadow taking inspiration from the bird song, fresh sprouts and buds
  • We painted paper eggs that “hatch” to reveal an animal
  • With enough winter snow to close school on Monday, we made a snowfriend onTuesday and Wednesday and enjoyed beautiful windy spring days Thursday and Friday!
  • We used pipettes with colored water on raindrops and on snow outside
  • Families shared spring traditions with the Tulip Poplar class – the Irish soda bread was delicious!
  • We created windy weather paintings by blowing through straws
  • We danced like the wind with scarves
  • We began a spring scavenger hunt – we hope to check off all the spring signs in the coming weeks!


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What could be better than cider around a campfire? The children learned all about how fire is helpful to people firsthand. Our students loved gathering fire wood (mouse tails, chickadee perches and beaver wood) to build the fire together. They painted and then placed “firesticks” around the fire pit to delineate a circle for safety. The storytelling with cider was a bonus! Once cooled, children also used charcoal from the fire to draw in their jourals. Fire paintings at the easel and campfire crowns to wear were also a hit!





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We continued to examine nature’s bounty in fall. We considered all the foods that are harvested from farms as well as the hard work farmers do to harvest this food.

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As the forest bustles with fall changes, we turn our thoughts to what trees do in autumn. Some of our favorite tree investigations this week included acorn and leaf printing, rubbings made on tree rings, outdoor leaf play, and tree exploration in the rain. “Mother Nature Did you Sneeze” and “I’m a Nut” were favorite songs. Notice all the ways we examined seeds, too!

seeds in salt dough seeds and leaves in salt dough seeds in salt dough project cut paper tree rings in the rainy autumn woods exploring a tree in the rain fun on the fall trail catching rain drops exploring wet fall leaves painting fall trees gathering walnuts walnuts down the chute! what's inside a walnut? making a salt dough relief with seeds sorting fall clues by color fall-inspired paintings fall inspired painting fun in the rain wild nature play (nevermind the rain!) climbing an uprooted tree balancing on a tree trunk examining tree parts fall seeds in the sensory table what's under a wet log? tree parts and tree ring tracings in nature journals playing in the Outdoor Classroom seeds in salt dough sculpture


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This Week’s Adventures: We celebrated Earth treasures by cherishing its natural resources.

Favorite Activities: Paper-making was a hit using recycled scraps of paper. We engineered our own games using recycled objects and marbles. We painted special garden stones and tended our seeds in the greenhouse. We also explored the pools and streams in search of aquatic creatures. Did I mention the mud?

Next’s Week’s Theme: In Our Garden (“Zz”)

Try this at home: Participate in a local Earth Day event to celebrate nature!

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paper-makinga trail walk is nice painted rocks 014 (3) posing on the tree roots in love with the bloodroot at the vernal pool searching for aquatic critters at the vernal pool with Miss Beth nature is awesome! a froggy friend hurray for spring discoveries in the stream

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This Week’s Adventures: It was a glorious week to search for nature’s colors!

Favorite Activities: We painted rainbow stones for our garden plot and went on a color search in the Woodland Garden with our painted egg cartons. We recycled magazine pages to cut and sort colors into a giant rainbow collage. We prepared the soil for planting our vegetables and watered our plants in the green house. Mostly we reveled in outdoor play thanks to beautiful, mild spring temperatures and sunny skies.

Next’s Week’s Theme: Earth Treasures (“Rr”)

Try this at home: Go on a color hunt in search of budding flowers, trees and shrubs. How many colors can you find?

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