STEAM, Environmental Literacy, and Future Careers as Part of Early Childhood Education
At Treehouse Learning, our curriculum integrates STEAM, as well as all academics, into nature-based learning. In fact, in our whole brain, whole person, whole planet approach, all learning is related and integrated!
We believe that environmental literacy and education in early childhood support entire communities in strengthening our relationships with the outdoor world and the land around us in sustainable, regenerative, and equitable ways, beginning in our infant program!
Engagement and curiosity with nature are foundational to physical, social-emotional, and cognitive development and also support scientific inquiry and lifelong patterns as conscientious citizens and responsible stewards of the environment. Research supports that children develop a lifelong concern for nature, wildlife, and the outdoors through consistent positive experiences with nature.
We also value the integration of an environmental science model across our curriculum with the expectation that many of our children will follow their parents (you, dear reader!) into STEAM fields and careers! Our whole brain/ whole person/ whole planet approach further embeds nature-based environmental literacy with the individual components of STEAM to integrate nature, science, and arts. You can also support a strong science foundation at home through nature-based learning.
Resources for Supporting Nature-Based Learning in Boulder and Lafayette
- Here’s a research-rich piece from NAEYC on the value and purpose of nature-based education specific to early childhood
- 1000 Hours Outside– A social-good organization dedicated to the mission of converting some of the 1200+ annual hours that children spend on screens into nature-based outdoor learning experiences (Green time vs screen time!). You’ll find a tracking tool to track hours spent outdoors, as well as resources, activities, and information connecting outdoor activities to whole child learning and development.
- Children & Nature Network: Co-founded by Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder,” to address the need for regular time outdoors as essential to healthy child development through an equity-focused understanding that longstanding systems of injustice have impacted the design and distribution of green spaces
- National Wildlife Federation’s The Green Hour program encourages the adoption of a goal of an hour outdoors per day
- Read about Boulder’s initiatives to connect children to nature-based learning
- Here’s a calendar for nature-based activities and events hosted by the City of Boulder, and another one specific to Lafayette
- For a family-friendly activity, check out the Nature Kids Discovery Zone/ Inspire Trail on the campus of Alicia Sanchez Elementary in Lafayette, or any of the many open spaces and outdoor activities in our community
Environmental Literacy as Part of the Childcare Curriculum at Treehouse Learning
- Plants and Gardening: In early springtime, the children start indoor plant seeds (mostly veggies, herbs, and flowers). We’ll then plant these starts in our garden beds, and involve our children in engaging and relating to growing plants and participating in the food they eat. We’re also learning how to propagate new plants from plant cuttings. This year we’ll also be seeding some extra plant starts in order to host some type of community plant exchange for families to bring home some veggie seedlings to plant in your own home gardens. This is a great way to strengthen the partnerships between schools, families, and our community, as well as share some powerful learning and connecting experiences with your children!
- Local Birds: We are also preparing a program-wide learning experience related to noticing, recognizing, and naming local birds that can be found in Lafayette and Boulder County. These experiences involve all of the senses, as well as engage children’s learning across domains, including their involvement with the natural world. Nature-based learning also supports the foundational skills for empathy/perspective-taking (emotional literacy) and whole-brain integration to support academic literacy (the visual tracking of birds moving across the sky or transferring visual focus between near and far each strengthens the neural pathways necessary for eventually decoding and making meaning of words). Paying attention to birds is also an activity that can again strengthen the relationship between school, family, and community and can be shared at home with your children!
- Community Partnerships with Open Space Programs Boulder County: Speaking of birds, Check out the calendar link for family-friendly bird watching and open-space activities, including presentations on Lafayette Birds at Greenlee Wildlife Preserve by naturalist (and Treehouse Learning community partner) Martin Ogle. These events are part of Lafayette’s years-long bird programs, as well as Lafayette’s designation as Colorado’s first “Bird City.”
- Nature as a Muse: Across our infant, toddler, preschool and kindergarten programs, children are involved in creative, experiential art projects inspired by nature and using natural materials. These include constructing bird feeders with collected pinecones, sensory-based opportunities to create bird nesting habitats with alpaca wool, and repurposing recycled materials to make birdhouses.