When we consider our "Dialogue with Place" at Opal School, we cannot forget our rich surrounding natural wooded areas in Washington Park, many of these places lovingly named by Opal children over the years – the Upper Meadow, the Running Space, Colorland, and more. Connecting children with nature in a concrete way is foundational in our teaching practice. We have consistently been inspired by research that has focused on the importance of outdoor experiences for children's healthy development. We know that when children feel connected to the natural world through their many experiences in the outdoors, it supports a love and respect for the natural world and thus, a desire to be stewards of the environment. We believe that shared experiences and "dialogue with places" in the natural world can create memories and meaningful connections with each other, fortifying the "us" and "we" of our learning community.
"It is what children need and deserve. It is our role as adults to stand up for what we believe in and provide opportunities and experiences that introduce children to the Natural World." -Rusty Keeler, Natural Playscapes
"We're getting higher and higher [climbing up the path]." -J.H.
"Make sure you don't fall down [talking to the children behind him while looking down the hill]. " -M.K.
"I liked playing with sticks!" -M.S.
"I found a sword stick and hid it in a tree." -P.F-K.
"I had fun running down the path." -G.G.
"I liked finding nature leaves and running down the hill. My stick blended in." -L.D.
"The idea of running down the hill was my idea." -S.R.
"I liked tickling everyone with a stick." -K.J.
"My stick is even the tallest." -K.P.
"Where's my polka dot leaf? I found the hugest polka-dot leaf!" -O.B
Connections are a vital component for building a strong learning community. We have faith that the outdoors will continue to provide a place for rich connections with one another and with the natural world – a place where we can share ourselves fully and discover what each of us brings to the "we" that we are becoming.
Some of our Teacher-Researcher wonderings:
- How will our shared outdoor experiences help foster friendships, as well as strengthen our sense of community?
- What connections are we noticing between children when we are in the outdoors? What about between children and nature?
- What natural materials will they find inspiring?
- What does it mean to be authentically ourselves within the outdoors? What role will the outdoors play in supporting each child's personal growth and well-being?