Vision, Curriculum and Long Term Impact
Wheeler’s youngest students love exploring, discovering and learning in the natural environment at the Wheeler Farm! For several years, students in the Early Childhood Program, on Forest Fridays, have been utilizing the woodlands and wetlands of this scenic 120 acre property as a unique and enriching component of the curriculum. This year for the health and safety of our preschool students, the pandemic prompted a move to the Farm and the opportunity to let nature inspire the everyday learning experience. It has been so rewarding as a teacher to be a part of the children’s learning journey and watch them experience such joy in the process!
Teaching and learning at the Farm everyday has allowed us to bring our vision for a nature-based early learning center to fruition. The Nest at Wheeler, opening in September 2021, is an educational journey where children learn through joyful, hands-on experiences. Our nature-based curriculum integrates academics and social emotional skills and inspires a love of learning and connection to the natural world.
Our philosophy of teaching focuses on being responsive to the children’s interests and developmental needs in order to plan curriculum and create meaningful learning experiences. Play as an essential component of this experience because it’s the way in which children learn. Children learn best in an environment where they can experiment on their own with activities that interest them. They are natural explorers and builders of knowledge. When they are outdoors they are making sense of the world by looking, touching, smelling, moving, questioning and observing. Everyday, we spend extensive time outdoors. The children are encouraged, in partnerships with teachers, to make discoveries about themselves and the natural world around them. The discoveries that take place outdoors inspire circle time discussion along with math, language and literacy, science and social studies lessons in our indoor classrooms.
Connecting children to nature supports every area of their development including enhancing cognition and improving academic performance, increasing physical skills, supporting creativity and problem solving, and improving social emotional skills. Many of the benefits children reap from exposure to nature and the skills gained through the experience of interacting with peers in nature are aligned with the skills they need in the 21 century workplace.