Little Mountain Neighbourhood House PLANE Toolkit: Ideas for Physical Literacy and Nature Exploration with Children

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Little Mountain has been offering two programs related to Physical Literacy and Nature Exploration since the summer of August 2013 thanks to the generous support from the United Way of Lower Mainland (Success by 6) since the very beginning, with additional support in the last 2 years from the RBC Learn to PLAY grant as well as some support from Decoda/Raise-a-Reader and CLICK (Contributing to Lives of Inner City Kids).  Starting last autumn, the design for an Educator-friendly PLANE ToolKit was conceived, with funding provided by Success by 6, building on research by Carmen Wiseman on best practices for Nature Exploration in an Urban Setting and her report Go Play Outside!  Developing an Urban Nature Exploration Program for Young Children for Little Mountain Neighbourhood House. The Toolkit was finished this March and unrolled at a workshop in April which brought Educators from Preschools, Daycares, Neighbourhood Houses and Family Places city wide. The workshop offered  the opportunity to explore not only the contents of the Toolkit  and its format, but an opportunity to program plan using the toolkit and practice “making learning visible” using photo documentation. The designer of the toolkit, Orah Chaye, is an Educational Consultant with 26 years of service working with children and families in various non-profit settings, 14 years as an ECE instructor in various institutions including Kwantlen Polytechnic University and Native Education AECE.  She has been delivering service to LMNHS for 16 years and is engaged extensively in capacity building for non-profit organizations. Orah strongly believes that “every child and parent are unique - emergent, child-led curriculum is crucial for optimal child development. Documenting children's work to make learning visible allows continuous reflection on the part of the Child, Parent and Educator.” She has a commitment to the development of “educational tools that will assist educators in tracking client progressions and planning curriculum implementation and delivery”.  In our increasing ‘built’ environment, we are losing access to our wild spaces, and it is imperative in this time of climate change that we foster stewardship of our planet in the youngest members of our society. Natural spaces do not have to be expansive, even the smallest space offers many opportunities for learning about nature, honing observation skills and developing critical thinking.

In developing the toolkit, Orah was conscious of building from the known, taking familiar songs, games, art ideas, etc. and incorporating natural materials and experiences. The toolkit is intended to be very educator-friendly, with many built-in links so users will be easily able to access support materials and resources.

 Photo Credit: Ryan Tauss, Stock Snap Free Stock 

Photo Credit: Ryan Tauss, Stock Snap Free Stock 

The toolkit is posted on the LMNHS Website and is structured in sections as follows:

The Successful Pedagogy and Benefits of PLANE

The Toolkit states, “Fabulous nature experiences with children happen when we are flexible both in our thinking and in our responses to children. There are a number of pedagogical frameworks that lend themselves well to PLANE including Reggio or Appreciative Inquiry approaches as well as the BC ‘ELF’ or Early Learning Framework. We must be present and connect: we must ‘collect’ the child.”  The Toolkit explores the Five Tenets from Joseph Cornell’s book Sharing Nature with Children:

  • Teach Less, Share More
  • Be Receptive
  • Focus the Child’s Attention without Delay
  • Look First, Talk Later
  • A Sense of Joy Should Permeate the Experience

Putting the Pieces Together

  • Narrative Pedagogy – Creating Documentation of Experience
    • The toolkit discusses “Making learning visible: What do we mean by making learning visible? First of all, we need to be careful observers to see what is actually occurring. Secondly, we need to document those observations - not just the outcome or the product, but the whole process of the experience and the learning that comes out of it is important. When we document this process, we make the learning visible. We have a concrete way to discuss and expand our thought processes and experiences, when we reflect on our processes in greater detail, we are able to find ways to further our exploration.”
    • A variety of practical suggestions for how to do this is given, using photography, commentary and display.
    • How Young Children Benefit from Being in Nature
      • A range of physical and social gain for children is listed, including development of a sense of caring and respect for the natural work, stressing that “this must be developed within first few years of life”.
      • Best Practices for Early Childhood Nature Exploration
        • This section lists practical ways for program facilitators to bring out children’s interest in and comfort with being in and engaging in a natural environmental setting.
        • Nature Play – Asking “Good Questions”
          • Purposely Framed Nature Play: combine open-ended unstructured play (children experience and explore the nature site on their own) with modeled play (facilitators illustrate, explore and demonstrate activities or ideas) and facilitator/child interactions.
          • The best and easiest way to make this happen is by asking the children open-ended “good questions” that invite exploration. Eventually we want to encourage the children to ask their own “good questions” about what they’re experiencing and to investigate possible answers.”
          • The toolkit provides a variety of sample “Good Questions” to stimulate conversations with the children in the program.

Planning

  • Nature Collection Template
  • PLANE Sample Lesson Plan: Spiders, Bugs and Things on the Ground
    • A note to the sample lesson plan explains, “It is always better to over-plan rather than not to have enough do: thus, there are more than 35 minutes’ worth of activities in this lesson plan. Please feel free to pick and choose among the activities in the plan and tailor the lesson to the needs of your centre or group.”
    • Program Planning Considerations for PLANE Sample Lesson Plan
      • This section gives detailed rationale and notes for each element of the Sample Lesson Plan

Resources

  • Picture Books
    • This section provides an extensive list of picture books to support programming, conveniently laid out with links to Vancouver Public Library (VPL) catalogue, along with ISBN and cover picture to make ordering easy from regional libraries for those outside the VPL system. Within Vancouver, simply click on the link , enter your card number and place a hold on the material at the branch of your choice.
    • Links are also given to BC’s Early Learning Framework document and companion document.
    • Songs and Finger Plays
    • Group Games
      • The toolkit notes, “Many of these nature awareness games are sourced from Joseph Cornell’s inspiring book Sharing Nature with Children. A brief description of group games follows. For each of these games, the experience will be augmented by documenting the process with photographs.”
      • Sensory Activities
        • The toolkit offer suggestions for taste, touch, sight and sound activities, including an extensive section of edible flowers and safety precautions
        • Experiential Activities
          • This section includes art activities, sensorial recipes (e.g. Herbal Playdough)

Toolbox

  • This section gives a list of starting items for a toolbox of program equipment, to which facilitators will inevitably add as they personalize their program.

What to Bring

  • This section details practical considerations for successful and well planned outings.

This summer, there will be Nature Exploration programs happening at Little Mountain Neighbourhood House. Please contact the PLANE Coordinator for more information or registration: Gregory_kidd@lmnhs.bc.ca.  If your Agency is interesting in hosting a one-day training, please contact maria_valenzuela@lmnhs.bc.ca

Access the toolkit here: PLANE Program Planning Toolkit:  Ideas for Physical Literacy and Nature Exploration with Children.