Category - General

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Arts and nature in early childhood education
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Showcase connects students to environmental realities
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Arts and nature in early childhood education

Learning outdoors and creating with nature can be beautiful and fun, but for some educators, the how-tos are not obvious. On Saturday, April 26, the non-profit organization NoVA Outside is providing inspirational speakers and some hands-on professional development at its Early Childhood Outside conference, this year with the theme of “The Arts in Nature.”

leaf art first grade

The event will showcase the teacher-created natural playspace at site host Westlawn Elementary School in Falls Church and will feature a Keynote by Amanda Whiteman, Wolf Trap Master Teaching Artist, breakout sessions, hands-on outdoor learning stations, featuring The Earth Loom, and practical ideas attendees can implement in their programs. A full schedule is available on the NoVA Outside website.

leaves as patterns first grade

Many teachers can get stuck in a rut of doing things in a way that feels safe and predictable, but NoVA Outside Early Childhood planning committee member Peggy Ashbrook argues that everything is better outdoors. “Outdoor experiences are so much richer than indoor experiences because changes happen every minute in nature. “

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The committee is excited to welcome their featured sponsor, Wolf Trap Early Learning Institute, for a day that will have educators and parents exploring dance, music, drawing, weaving and more as pathways to learning. Sandra Redmore, co-chair of the NoVA Outside Early Childhood committee, said, “Creativity naturally evolves and is strengthened outdoors.  Nature is dynamic, unpredictable and multi-sensory, full of easily observable patterns and relationships, making the outdoors an ideal setting for young children to learn through the arts.”

The event runs 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The third annual event is closed for online registration, but walk-ins are welcome.

Showcase connects students to environmental realities

Green teams, eco-clubs, Earth Force crews: environmentally-aware students of all stripes came out to the April 10 School Environmental Action Showcase (SEAS) held at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts and on the blossom-filled grounds around Mason Pond. The event was the third annual showcase organized by NoVA Outside, a coalition of environmental educators that is in the process of becoming a non-profit organization.

This year, some 800 people participated from over 30 schools in Fairfax, Arlington, Alexandria and Falls Church and 30 partnering organizations in addition to 40 invited VIPs. The lobby of the Arts Center turned into an expo filled with rows of tables where schools shared their pride in eco efforts on tri-fold displays. Students spent one of the rotations of the day staffing their table to explain to their peers what initiatives their schools had undertaken in the realm of environmental awareness. These included gardens, inventive recycling programs, energy awareness campaigns and more.

NoVA Outside SEAS 2014 Claremont Viva Verde

Students shared excitedly what they’d learned from other schools’ exhibits. Some schools actively promoted action items; Arlington’s H-B Woodlawn’s Earth Force team is hoping to get everyone to Turn Out the Lights  from 10:00 to 10:30 p.m. on April 26 and circulated information about this energy-saving initiative.

NoVA Outside SEAS 2014 Dr. Murphy Arlington

The event began at 10:00 with a keynote address by Cassandre Arkema and Antonio Mestre of Arlington’s Washington-Lee High School. Students then cycled through rotations that included exhibiting in the Center for the Arts and enjoying hands-on activities outside on the lawn above Mason Pond. It was the perfect day to celebrate learning outside!

Dozens of professionals committed to environmental awareness showcased their projects under two large tents. Exhibitors included nature centers and science-based organizations with microscopes and wildlife displays, education programs like Arcadia Farm and School for the Future, businesses with eco-friendly products including WormWatcher.com showing its compost bin and Tom Noll with his new children’s book, The Bicycle Fence (which he donated to our Earth Day opening giveaway), the first in the Recycling Creatively with L.T. series, to be followed soon by a book about raising chickens for eggs.

NoVA Outside SEAS 2014 Energy Bike

NoVA Outside SEAS 2014 field guide coverThe Fairfax Stormwater Planning Division invited students to investigate pond water and displayed a Field Guide it produced last year that has been given to all Fairfax County 5th grade students. It seemed thoroughly possible to spend almost the entire day  outside doing experiments and talking to to experts in their fields.

NoVA Outside SEAS 2014 field guide inside

 

But there was so much more inside! Middle school students on Earth Force teams had the opportunity to showcase their own research on the question of “What can you do to improve your watershed?” The “Caring For Our Watersheds” competition gave out thousands of dollars to competing teams, including first- and second-place winners George Washington Middle School and third place Kenmore Middle School.

NoVA Outside SEAS 2014  School for the Future

This was the second year for the Caring for our Watersheds competition and the first year that SEAS hosted the KidWind Challenge, which has students explore the power of wind energy and design and create a functional wind turbine. The middle school winner was Lanier Middle School, and Jack Jouett Middle School won the open division. National KidWind Challenge takes place here in town on the National Mall on Saturday, April 26.

Last year I volunteered to help out at the event, but this year, with the busyness of launching this site, I made only enough time t show up and enjoy it! It was thrilling to see children so engaged and learning from one another and from people in positions they might someday hold, now that they know about all the ways one can make a career out of environmentalism. The day seemed like the best kind of field trip, one that helped students connect what they were learning to the real world, both in terms of consequences and environmental awareness and also awareness about opportunities to work in the field. For a nice snapshot of the SEAS event, check it out on Storify.

NoVA Outside is putting on its third Early Childhood Outside Conference  also on April 26 at Westlawn Elementary school in Fairfax with the theme “The Arts in Nature” and is also sponsoring a book discussion on May 13 about Adventure: The Importance of Risk in Children’s Play.

 

Related articles from TheDCMoms.com

2014 SEAS Event

2013 SEAS Event

2012 Green Schools Expo

 

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