In today's rapidly advancing world, where technology plays a dominant role in children's lives, the importance of connecting young learners with nature has become increasingly evident.
The British International School Bratislava recognises the transformative benefits of nature-based learning and gives children in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) the opportunity to engage with the natural world, encouraging their curiosity, creativity, and overall development. Nature-based learning offers a holistic learning experience and a sense of caring for the environment from an early age. Let me highlight the benefits of nature-based learning and explore its numerous advantages:
1. Connecting with the Natural World
The children develop a deep connection with the world around them by observing plants, discovering insects, or feeling different textures. Nature provides a rich sensory experience that stimulates curiosity, imagination, and wonder, laying the foundation for a lifelong love of learning.
2. Holistic Development
Through hands-on experiences in nature, children enhance their physical abilities such as balance, coordination, and gross and fine motor skills. Also fosters social and emotional development, as children learn to collaborate, communicate, and negotiate while engaging in group activities and exploring natural materials.
3. Cognitive Development
Nature provides lots of opportunities for cognitive development. Encourages problem–solving, critical thinking, and decision-making skills, but also early mathematics and science exploration. The children count leaves, identify shapes, and learn about life cycles.
4. Environmental Awareness
By witnessing first-hand, the beauty and fragility of nature, children become more empathic and environmentally conscious individuals. Nature-based learning encourages sustainable practices, such as recycling, conserving resources and understanding the impact of human actions on the natural world.
5. Wellbeing and Resilience
Time spent in nature helps our children reduce stress, anxiety, and restlessness, promoting emotional well-being. Nature-based learning also encourages risk-taking and resilience as children engage in outdoor challenges, climb trees, balance on logs, and navigate uneven terrains.
6. Language and Communication
Nature provides a rich context for language development. Children engage in meaningful conversations, describing their experiences and expanding their vocabulary.
7. Creativity and Imagination
Outdoor environments inspire children for artistic expression, storytelling, and dramatic plays.
They can be innovative, original, and have a sense of wonder encouraging them to think freely.
During the long-term management of this project at the British International School Bratislava, we tried to incorporate the following strategies:
1. Outdoor Exploration
The children were exploring natural environments such as gardens, playgrounds, or nearby woodlands. Created designated outdoor areas that feature a variety of sensory experiences, such as soil, water, sand, mud, and natural loose parts like sticks, rocks, leaves, branches, different nuts, and seeds.
2. Nature Walks and Wildlife Observation
The children went on regular nature walks and excursions, moved in different habitats, observed the local flora and fauna, and got to know the seasonal changes. We encouraged them to engage all their senses, ask questions and discover the nature around them.
3. Gardening and Planting
We set up garden areas where children participated in planting, caring for plants, and observing their growth.
The children learnt about the life cycle of plants, developed a sense of responsibility, and understood the importance of caring for living things.
4. Nature-Based Arts and Crafts
The children created collages by using leaves and flowers, made bark rubbings, or used natural dyes for painting.
These activities fostered children to appreciate the beauty and diversity of the natural world.
5. Sensory Experiences
While exploring in the natural environment children had opportunities to touch, smell, taste, listen, and observe nature, scents, natural materials, and different textures. Active involvement in multisensory perception stimulated cognitive development and enhanced children's overall sensory awareness.
6. Storytelling and Nature Journals
We were reading books about nature, acting, and creating stories inspired by outdoor experiences. We made nature journals where we draw pictures or documented worksheets from Scavenger hunts.
7. Risky Play and Outdoor Challenges
We allowed children to engage in age–appropriate risky play activities that promote physical development, problem-solving, and resilience. Climbing trees, balancing on logs build confidence, coordination, and a sense of adventure.
At the British International School in Bratislava, children are encouraged to explore the natural world, fostering their sense of wonder, creativity, and environmental consciousness. The school's innovative approach incorporates outdoor classrooms, nature trails, and dedicated green spaces where children can engage in hands-on learning experiences. These opportunities not only enhance their academic development but also promote their physical, emotional, and social well-being.
The power of nature-based learning in the Early Years Foundation Stage, paving the way for a brighter, greener future for our children and the planet they will inherit.
Daniela Kollarova is Forest School leader in EYFS at the British International School Bratislava.