On a recent day in preschool, students were playing hide and seek while waiting for all of their classmates to arrive to class. They giggled and laughed as they found hiding spots, which happened to be outdoors in trees and tall grasses ! They were pretty excited for their Creation Rich discovery hike day.
Encountering Nature in Our Outdoor Classroom
This past Thursday, Denver Christian School preschoolers headed out to Bear Creek Lake Park for a discovery hike, looking for signs of animals and what they do in the fall to get ready for winter. Lucky for us, there was a lot to see: a deer, some flattened grass where a group of deer slept, bee hives, holes in trees for squirrels and birds, bird nests, a paw print from a coyote or fox, and a beaver dam (as well as some pretend bats hidden in the trees, just for fun!).
Part of our discovery hike included walking beside a stream, where we talked about how God leads us by quiet waters and how his waters bring us peace. When asked how the sound of the water made them feel, we heard preschoolers respond, “nice, beautiful, calm, good.”
One of them responded with, “it just makes me feel watery.”
And that’s one of the things we love about our Creation Rich outings: it’s a sensory-rich environment that captivates preschoolers and invites wonder, amazement, delight, discovery, and awe. And also really funny comments too!
Sensory-Rich Outdoor Encounters
Even those funny comments, though, are evidence of learning. One of the benefits of outdoor education is being able to use language as a tool for observation and discovery. During our Creation Rich discovery hike, preschoolers delighted in showing, telling, explaining, and asking — all of which aids in vocabulary and language development. We saw further evidence of this when listening to students recalling and describing some of the things they learned during our last outing about hidden pictures in nature, and they frequently stopped to describe what logs, trees, and grass looked like.
While at the park, students listened to ‘The Hat’ by Jan Brett and giggled when all of the animals tried to wear clothes to stay warm for winter. Even the book reads, “That’s ridiculous! Don’t you know animals don’t wear clothes?” As we read the book, students worked on making predictions about what would happen next. At the end we discussed why animals don’t need to wear clothes. The preschoolers could relate to the animals feeling cold enough to wear clothes, though, because it was a pretty cold day at the park!
Preschoolers also explored three different learning stations at Bear Creek Lake Park: making bird feeders with Crisco and bird seed to help our feathered friends find food in winter; a math activity pretending to give squirrels nuts using numbered counting mats and rocks, sticks, or leaves; and reading and making an early reader about animal tracks. Students were surprised to learn that raccoons have handprints similar to ours 5 fingers on their hands just like people do!
Encountering God in Our Outdoor Classroom
One of the rhythms of our learning time together includes review time, where we talk about what we did and what we learned that day. At our Bear Creek Lake Park review time we asked students, “How did you see God today?”
“I saw beautiful things He made.”
What we value most about Creation Rich activities in preschool at Denver Christian is seeing these precious children encounter their creator God in the midst of his creation. Genesis 1:31 tells us, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” Our preschoolers saw God in the beautiful creation around them at Bear Creek!
Brittany Viss teaches preschool at Denver Christian School, and finds joy in seeing her students discover and delight in God’s beautiful world.