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Posts Tagged ‘preschool art and nature’

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

Music
-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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