Laurel Oak Nature School Program
“A little seed contains the design of the tree, so in each child is the promise of his potentiality. The educator only takes care that no untoward influence shall disturb nature’s march of developments.” William Kilpatrick
We believe that a wonderful childhood starts with imaginative play and a supportive environment; with a meaningful connection to animals and the outdoors; with the freedom of independence and the spirit of community and charity; with vigorous physical activity and nourishing food; with feeling at home in nature.
Outdoor-immersion preschools and kindergartens have existed in Europe for nearly two centuries. They are based on the philosophy that children flourish most when they spend their days outdoors and learn through imaginative play and self-led explorative learning. A number of studies (links are included at the bottom of this page) have found that an increased amount of time outdoors not only benefits children’s physical health, but also fosters creativity, better social skills and improves concentration and learning capacity.
Our program is play-based and allows children to develop their skills and habits over time and at their own pace. Children learn naturally to be self-motivated, cooperative, respectful, grateful, and aware of their impact on the earth. Children experience outdoor adventures in all weather conditions. The outdoor classroom is made as safe as is reasonably possible, in order to facilitate children’s risk-taking. It provides a complete immersion in garden areas and nature helping to build a child’s sense of place in the world.
By tapping into their innate sense of wonder about nature, we can help children learn basic environmental and natural science principles, as well as respect for all living beings. Lessons flow organically from the natural rhythms of the seasons and from the children’s daily discoveries. There are no set lesson plans: each day is shaped by the animals, insects, birds, amphibians, weather and foraging that is encountered, providing spontaneous teachable moments. The agricultural component of our property, including our extensive vertical farming system, provides opportunities for children to learn math, science and agricultural studies through hands-on lesson opportunities. Additionally, children will learn organizational skills, community awareness and the importance of volunteerism and charity while helping prepare the produce for donation to local food banks. Yoga and mindfulness training will also be an integral part of the Nature School Program offering children a healthy way to focus their energy and develop positive problem solving and calming techniques.
The following subjects and skills are naturally included as a part of your child’s educational experience:
Social skills: respect, kindness, compassion, empathy, mindfulness
Conflict resolution and negotiation
School Readiness Skills
Joy of learning
Creativity and imagination
Cooperation and teamwork
COMMITMENT TO YOUR CHILD’S PHYSICAL SAFETY
AND EMOTIONAL WELL-BEING
We are committed to inspiring and teaching respect for the earth and all its inhabitants by modeling respect for self and for others. Cooperative adventures will be provided daily—rather than competitive activities. We empower children to work with others while at the same time honoring their individuality. There is a zero tolerance policy for hitting, grabbing, pushing, name-calling, aggressiveness or any other demeaning behavior. If these behaviors occur, the teacher will separate the instigating child from the group to a calm place for a one-on-one discussion. We will speak respectfully to the child and model appropriate responses to their emotions. If the child does not respond positively and continues to display demeaning behavior, the child will be removed from the group, and a conference will be scheduled with the parent(s) and school director. We will work as a team to support each child to ensure a successful experience.
REQUIREMENTS FOR NATURE SCHOOL PROGRAM
AGE & PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS
Children aged 3-7 may apply. Children must be able to follow directions carefully, show respect towards other children and their teachers, and be able to communicate effectively. Children must be toilet-proficient in order to attend. They must be able to know when they have to go to the bathroom and be able to communicate that.
Appropriate clothing for the Nature School is CRITICAL to the success of the program. “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing choices.” Parents are responsible for providing clothing appropriate for current weather conditions as well as supplying additional clothing in case of spontaneous changes in weather. In the event of lightning or other weather conditions that present legitimate safety risks, children will remain indoors.
Parents will be encouraged to spend time as volunteers in the Nature School program and may accompany children during the Nature School though they are encouraged to remain as passive observers and allow their children to fully immerse themselves in the program. Weekend and evening events will be planned at Laurel Oak to provide involvement for the entire family.
Family membership is included with tuition for up to 4 family members.
SCHEDULE AND TUITION FEES
Laurel Oak Nature School offers a Half-Day Nature School Program With a 1 day or 2 day option from 8:30am to 12pm or 2:30pm.
The half-day program is predominantly outdoors and focused on exploratory play and additional activities such as painting, drawing, music, dance, writing/story-telling in a Montessori-inspired learning environment
All learning is seasonal and nature-based, and connected to the children’s daily outdoor discoveries.
School Year: September through May with Thanksgiving, Winter break, Spring Break, and other holidays aligned with the Palm Beach County School Calendar
10% tuition discount for each additional child from the same family
Tuition may be paid monthly, or the total year’s tuition may be paid in advance. Monthly payments are due the first of each month, with the first months’ amount paid in advance. A $50 application fee is due at the time of application for enrollment
Mondays 8:30am - 12:00pm*: $100 per month
Mondays 8:30am - 2:30pm*: $135 per month
Wednesdays & Thursdays 8:30am - 12:00pm*: $200 per month
Wednesdays & Thursdays 8:30am - 2:30pm: $270 per month
*Morning classes are reserved primarily for 3 year olds
Includes one snack per session and all school supplies.
Children must bring packed lunches.
Laurel Oak Nature School & Garden exists as a supplementary day program for homeschooled children and is not licensed or accredited as a school or child care facility.
Links to Supporting Studies
We encourage all of our parents to educate themselves on the benefits and philosophies of nature immersion for young children. Below are some informative links to related scientific papers as well as a list of other reading materials available for purchase.
Forest School and its Impacts on Young Children: Case Studies in Britain
A study tracking 24 children attending Forest Schools in Great Britain.
“Six themes emerged from the data of the positive impacts on children in terms of confidence, social skills, language and communication, motivation and concentration, physical skills and knowledge and understanding. Two further themes highlight the wider impacts of Forest School on teachers, parents, and the extended family. Contact with the natural environment can be limited for children and young people in contemporary society due to concerns about safety outdoors and issues of risk and liability. Forest School provides an important opportunity for children to gain access to and become familiar with woodlands on a regular basis, while learning academic and practical skills.”
The Schoolyard Habitat Movement: What it is and Why Children Need It.
An historical and evolutionary standpoint on the newness of separation of children from the outdoors emphasizing the importance of reincorporation nature play in the modern school setting.
“The departure [from experiences in nature] is so recent that most of the adults in our country still remember outdoor play as a significant and treasured part of their childhood, even while they recognize that today’s children do not have the same access to outdoors as they did. Concern about this phenomenon has led some education and conservation groups to spearhead efforts to have schoolyards provide nature-based environments for children. Why schoolyards should provide such habitats and what is being done to create them are the focus of this article.”
Children With Attention Deficits Concentrate Better After Walk in the Park
A study that found that a 20 minute walk outdoors substantially improved focus and concentration in children with attention deficit disorders.
“Twenty minutes in a park setting was sufficient to elevate attention performance relative to the same amount of time in other settings. These findings indicate that environments can enhance attention not only in the general population but also in ADHD populations. “Doses of nature” might serve as a safe, inexpensive, widely accessible new tool in the toolkit for managing ADHD symptoms.”
Children in the Outdoors
A literature study looking at many different studies on the benefits of exposing children to the outdoors, including sections on children in natural areas and the outdoors and education.
“It has been suggested that a greater engagement with the outdoors throughout the curriculum (not just in play or organised sports activities) for primary and secondary school aged children, can bring benefits associated with a greater connection with nature. Tunnicliffe (2008) gives one example by investigating the merits of the pond as a site of “biology and science education”. However, research has shown that school conducted outside also increases levels of children’s physical activity (Groves and McNish, 2008). Mygind (2005) suggests that Forest Schools increase levels of physical activity and Lovell’s work (2009) shows that on Forest School days children are more active – as measured through use of pedometers, sedentary time reduces from around three quarters to a third of the school day.”
The Decline of Play and the Rise of Psychopathy in Children
A study looking at the link between the decline in play and the increase of psychopathic tendencies including anxiety, depression, suicide and narcissism in children.
“This article documents these historical changes and contends that the decline in play has contributed to the rise in the psychopathology of young people. Play functions as the major means by which children (1) develop intrinsic interests and competencies; (2) learn how to make decisions, solve problems, exert self-control, and follow rules; (3) learn to regulate their emotions; (4) make friends and learn to get along with others as equals; and (5) experience joy. Through all of these effects, play promotes mental health. “
Recommended Books for further reading: `
Nature Preschools and Forest Kindergartens: The Handbook for Outdoor Learning
By David Sobel
Forest Kindergartens: The Cedarsong Way
By Erin K Kenny
The Outdoor Classroom in Practice, Ages 3-7: A month-by-month guide to forest school provision
By Karen Constable
The Absorbent Mind
By Dr Maria Montessori
Last Child in the Woods
By Richard Louv