Nursery School Uses the Great Outdoors As Their Classroom

Steve Adubato talks with Nicole Langdo, Founding Director of Painted Oak Nursery School and Kindergarten, about how she is using the great outdoors as a classroom and why she believes nature should play a bigger role in early childhood education. 12/3/16 #2588






"Steve Adubato here. It is my pleasure to introduce Nicole Langdo, who is the Founding Director Painted Oak Nursery School and Kindergarten in Hopewell New Jersey. How you doing? That's right. I'm great, thank you. We're going to be having three conversations with three educational innovators in the area of early childhood education today. And what I found fascinating about you... we had a panel discussion today with you and three of your colleagues. Your school is fascinating for many reasons, but not the least of which is much of the learning goes on outside. Talk about that. Right, that's right. So, every day the children come to school in their full gear for the day. Define full gear. Full gear looks like in the Fall and Spring, rain gear. So, a rain jacket, rain pants can be little bibs or pants with their backpacks fully packed and ready for the day. Food, water, extra clothes in case or when they get wet or muddy and might need to change underneath. Thinking that the rain gear obviously does keep them relatively clean so to speak. And then we trek out into the woods for learning and play. So that is circle with songs and counting and books and patterns and sequencing and questions and all of that. And then play in the woods. Being little among the trees. Let's be clear, there is a philosophy here and it's grounded... based on? Yes, so we draw inspiration from the Reggio Emilia approach. The Reggio Emilia approach. Yes, yes. Talk about that. So what that means is that the children are really the directors of their own learning The teachers are the facilitators. So what that means really is that the teachers will ask the children questions which could be "did you hear that sound as we were walking to the woods? What do you think it was?" and get a conversation started and see where the children take it which then gives us insight into what they're interested in, what they want to know more about, maybe what they already know. And then we bring in more learning materials to support what they want to learn about as opposed to what the teachers think they should learn about. So back up for a second if we could. So I'm fascinated by the use of questions. There's a wonderful book called "Change Your Questions, Change Your Life" by Doctor Marilee Adams in which she argues that if you ask the right questions, you can not only change the conversation, but change the dynamics of a relationship and ultimately change your life. Sure. Are you saying that teachers are taught to facilitate by asking great questions..."