Teacher Testimonials from Butterfly Christian Preschool
My notes from a visit to Butterfly Christian Preschool.
"We have the best job in the world when the children are outside."
"I'm a big fan, especially for the kids that are two years old. It's so fun to be outside all morning. At this age, I love to be outdoors with them. So at the beginning of the year we come over here in the morning, we have snacks outside, with stories outside. What I try to do is take everything I have inside the classroom, I have in the playground. So it's not just that we come here and sit down. It's a different experience, connected to the classroom."
How do you deal with the messes?
"I ask them to bring a change of clothes. Sometimes I spray them with a hose and they go crazy, they love it, because nobody does that anymore. I had a girl two years old who told me Oh, Ms. Potter I didn't bring my iPad. So I love to go outside with them.
"I'm going to put a big piece of plywood for them to paint on outdoors and a chalkboard, and then we're going to have the musical instruments, too."
Are the parents happy when they see how fun this is?
"They usually like it because the kids are so happy, and at one o'clock the children are so tired. Sometimes they get a little mad because the children go home with their shoes a little wet. So I just ask them, send him with shoes that can get wet and everything is fine. At the beginning of the year I ask them to bring a set of drive clothes, and everything is fine.
"I send pictures of the children painting and playing outdoors with shaving cream and water, and then they see Oh My Gosh, my kids are so happy here!"
What other benefits come from being outdoors?
"Sometimes when we're inside the classroom and it's too noisy I say, Let's go for a walk. And we go for a walk. There is a trail behind the church, and an owl that lives behind the church. Everybody in this class knows who the owl is, and they even ask me "Can i go see the owl today?" So we walk all the way to go see the owl, and if she's not there we talk about it. She goes to the grocery store, etc. And on the trail is their garden, and their piles of dirt. They climb the piles of dirt up and down. And they're all happy. And one thing we notice -- they calm down so much after being outside. They stop fighting, everybody sits down for lunch. They eat better when they're outside. We have the best job in the world when they're outside."
"They are so into the trails, now they know where the little holes are on the trees and they stop and see that -- they are two years old."
The children seem more agile, too?
"When they arrive here they are 18 months old! (At this moment a 2 year old does a somersault.) They are completely different kids when they are outdoors. They know how to put their shoes on... They are two years old. They don't need a lesson plan. They need to be outside exploring."
"It's a sensory experience."
"I started out working with special needs kids and animals. What we did was work with children who had no empathy, in rural New Mexico. They started learning about the animals and caring for the animals, and then we worked on public speaking. It was just amazing to see them go into a nursing home and teach the older people, they would go and present what they had learned about the animals and caring for the animals. So that's kind of how I started out.
How is nature-inspired preschool education unique?
"This is their time to use their creative minds. If a boy wants to hold a stick he can, as long as he's not climbing on the playground. If they want to take their shoes off on the playground they can, because it's a sensory experience. This goes all the way down to the baskets they can touch and feel instead of plastics in the classroom. Things like wood that you can build with, it just gets the imagination going.
"I always have pets in the classroom. We have a Leopard Gecko right now. The children have to be gentle, they have to take turns, they can't be too loud. They ask questions, What are those red things on the side of his head? Oh, those are his ears... Why is that snake sticking his tongue out? Well, he smells with his tongue, and when he puts his tongue back in his mouth he processes that sensory information. And he uses his pits to see in the dark... It's just about being with Nature.
"When they're outside they're running around and there's fresh air. What are they going to fight over? They're not bumping into each other. It's easier to keep personal space. In Germany they don't have classrooms. There is no bad weather, there's just inappropriate clothing. When they get the children outdoors they give them a task, they give them real tools, six and seven year olds.
"It’s all connected. We’ve got balance beams out there. Walking thru the woods is not easy. The straw bales, all of these things improve their learning and gross motor skills."
"We're trying to break down the walls between classroom learning and outdoor experience."
"What we're trying to do is to break down the walls between what is typical classroom learning and just outside experience with playground. We do reading out there, snack, lunch."
Jeanne reads cards from parents to teachers --
"I love that you take the children outside so often, on picnics, hikes, and planting flowers."
"I love your gentle nature and maternal spirit."