Aug, 25, 2020
By Austin Nikolich, Curriculum Director, Sacred Heart Preschool
2020 has certainly posed some significant challenges for schools and teachers as they look to reimagining what school will like regarding the new health and safety guidelines. Sacred Heart Preschool, however, has been able to move into this new school year without missing a beat.
Several years ago, we embarked on a journey of rediscovering our roles and passions in the field of early childhood education. We embraced a play and nature-based shift in pedagogy and sought the council of Claude Stephens and Melissa Rue with Bernheim’s Children at Play Network. As a faculty we explored how true free play and risk assessment are pivotal in our work alongside children. We recognized that this reimagining of our work would not be easy, or quick.
We began with book studies around free play and nature education and brought Claude and Melissa in for teacher training and parent education events. We hosted several
Free Play Days and began to redesign our learning environments, both inside and out. We threw out the boxed curriculum and many packaged, plastic, toys and introduced non-prescriptive items like loose parts and nature items to the classrooms. We no longer see weather as an obstacle, but as an organic element in teaching and learning. Our students are now equipped to be happy and successful in all weather… and our teachers see how freely their students learn through play in all types of weather.
Last year we made the leap into reimagining our outdoor environments. Sacred Heart Preschool partnered with CAPN to begin a 5-year redesign project of our outdoor spaces. We have taken to heart the approach to nature-based learning with spaces like our Enchanted Forest, Stump Garden, Mud Kitchen and Outdoor Loose Parts Lab.