Photographs were taken by the Laboratory School
March 30, 2022
The UD Laboratory School models nature education for preschool children
“Wearing clothes for the weather” has a real meaning for parents who drop out of their preschool at the University of Delaware’s Laboratory School, located on the campus of the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD). Children are aware of the weather and come with rain boots, hats and jackets and are ready to spend most of their day playing and learning on nature trails, rivers or the cooking forest in front of the Laboratory School building.
Founded in 1934, the laboratory school teaches children from the age of six months to kindergarten and currently serves as a rich laboratory for UD students specializing in early childhood education and researchers interested in child development. The laboratory school has modeled quality child education for nearly 88 years, with a commitment to child-centered learning and a compassionate guidance program for preschool teachers.
In 2017, the Laboratory School launched its nature-based preschool program, led by Master Cathy Pollock. Since then, it has become a leader in the field and has attracted the attention of the prestigious Dar Bloom Conference, a professional training event for teachers interested in nature education. On Saturday, April 2, the Laboratory School will host a conference and several UD teachers and instructors will lead the afternoon activities.
“A quality early childhood curriculum focuses on the child and the child’s development, including their physical development, language development, self-awareness, ability to communicate with others, and ability to learn literacy, mathematics, science, and social sciences. When you teach a quality early childhood program, you reach out to the whole child, and that’s what the Laboratory School has always been an example of, ”said Jennifer Gallo-Fox, associate professor of human development and family sciences at CEHD (HDFS). and integrate field research, for example, in the Laboratory School. A nature-based curriculum is another way to show what this model can look like when you’re out and about. ”
The Laboratory School’s natural program engages preschoolers with a sense of wonder and curiosity through a balance of child-led external activities and teachers that promote social, physical, cognitive, and language development. Children explore paths, rivers, and forested areas around the Laboratory School and engage in activities that integrate science, math, literacy, and the arts.
Ellen Doris, director of the Early Childhood Certificate Program in Antioch, said, “At the Center for Nature Education, the belief is supported by research that young children enjoy opportunities to spend time in nature.” The university and one of the keynote speakers at the Bloom Conference. “We want outdoor play and learning to be part of every child’s life so that every child can develop strong and loving relationships with nature and their communities.”
Even in the cold months, children in the Laboratory School spend most of their time outside and learn the terrain in the winter. They can examine ice or snow under a microscope, study a tree without its leaves, or learn about wintering animals.
“Some schools run one unit during the winter, but the winter doesn’t last two weeks,” Pollock said. “Winter is very long and there are different stages of winter. We can discover different things about ice, such as how it melts or how it re-freezes, and encourage children to examine it with large glasses and a microscope. We can ask them to think about the temperature and how the shade affects different parts of the ice. But most of all, we amaze them, we ask them questions, and we love them who love learning. ”
At the heart of this emerging curriculum, which is based on the curiosity and development of the child himself, is a strong sense of community. Teachers and staff of the Laboratory School establish contact with children and their families before the start of the school year so that each child feels cared for and supported in their educational, social and emotional development. The lab school also invites members of the community, such as master gardeners and children’s book authors, to share their experiences and engage children in play learning activities.
Rich advice for pre-service teachers
The laboratory school is also unique in its commitment to mentoring preschoolers, especially UD students who are enrolled in the Early Childhood Education Program (ECE) under the HDFS.
Still in their second year of study, ECE students spend one day a week at the Laboratory School, teaching alongside their instructors, developing relationships with children, and reflexive experience, a model of their own learning and refinement based on it. experience and ongoing training.
“Before the children arrive, we talk to second-year ECE students about the activities they have been involved in, the intentions involved in the activities, the skills we encourage as a result, and we ask them how they can expand the game or expand, ”Pollock said. “When the kids come, the students are on the floor. We don’t want them to sit down and celebrate – there’s no time and place for that. We want them to be engaged. When they are here, they are part of our teaching team. We will build relationships with them from the beginning and interact with each other in terms of our goals. ”
Some of these students then complete their undergraduate studies at the Laboratory School, developing long-term professional relationships with faculty and staff after graduating from UD.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Laboratory School remained one of the only sites in Delaware that was open to student education. ECE students and other pre-service teachers were able to witness how teachers and staff turned to online learning and, after expanding and enriching their existing external space, quickly reopened for personal study.
Holding a Conference In Bloom
It has been highlighted by external organizations, such as the Natural Start Alliance, Laboratory School teachers – a title that reflects a high level of experience and commitment to scientific practice, reflecting – and its dedicated staff presenting themselves as leaders in early childhood education.
The School of Laboratory is hosting the Bloom Conference, organized by David Sobel of the University of Antioch, where several faculty members have completed or completed their natural sciences-based certification program.
“It’s amazing that a whole group of teachers are working together to track their professional development,” Doris said. “These teachers are very encouraging in terms of what they have already achieved at the Laboratory School. They were really generous to share their experience with colleagues in the program, and they are eager to learn more. ”
Teachers from the Laboratory School and the HDFS faculty lead a series of afternoon workshops focusing on topics such as child-based exploration, science practices in nature and engineering processes, bird training with children, and intellectual development.
To register for the Bloom Conference, which is co-hosted by the University of Antioch and HDFS, go to the University of Antioch’s registration page. For more information about the Laboratory School and its programs, visit its website.