Connecting Christian Preschoolers to Nature
by Katie Knight
“God as a Creator gave us this beautiful planet. We are to co-create, not to trash, the Earth out of love and respect because we are in partnership with nature as created beings.” - Jeanne Grevlos
When asked why Butterfly Christian Preschool has moved its activities primarily into the nature setting, Principal Jeanne Grevlos responds: “You can bring education inside, but when kids see the shadows through the trees or see a pinecone fallen from a tree in nature, it’s simply different from a pinecone on the sensory table.” Seeing objects in the forest and in the context of an entire ecosystem is different from seeing an isolated object in the classroom. “At this age, learning happens by osmosis.”
Jeanne describes her students being fascinated by the flickering patches of sunlight filtering through the tree canopy on Butterfly's small, forested campus. Indoor settings can only change when people move objects, or turn off the lights, or turn up the AC, but nature is always changing and people learn more from stimulating environments.
On a June morning indoors, one little boy seemed to be enchanted by the play of light thru the trees dancing on the church floor. To him, light dancing through the trees is likely more interesting than unmoving stationary light. Most everything indoors is man-made, unliving, and motionless; not interacting as a living system.
Butterfly Christian Preschool, canopied by oaks and evergreens, is surrounded by a miniature ecosystem that is constantly shifting and changing. The place is alive and therefore always evolving. Kids notice and learn from this. They are surrounded by natural objects and living things (biodiversity) to interact with. With caring guidance and oversight from their preschool teachers, Butterfly's children become their own teachers as they observe and play with the world around them.
- Evidence Grows for Brain Benefits of Enriched Environments in Normal Aging and Disease, Dana Foundation, 2006
- A Dose of Nature for Attention Problems, New York Times, 2008
- Enriched Environments Build Better Brains, Psychology Today, 2012
- How Nature Reads Our Minds and Bodies, The Atlantic, 2013
- How Walking in Nature Changes the Brain, New York Times, 2015
- Children are Being Connected to Nature Right in the Library, School Library Journal, 2015
- Environment Stimulation and Environmental Psychology, Psychology Today, 2015
edited by Chris Searles