On Friday, brisk fall air and the crunch of leaves greeted kindergarten and first graders at Robert C. Parker School as they skipped along a woodsy path on the school’s 5K trail system.
Muddy Boots Club is a science-based environmental education program at Parker for all children in preschool through third grade and is connected to the classroom curriculum.
Teacher, Liliana DeGeorgio said, “Let’s walk very quietly and see what we can discover about animal homes and their habitat in the woods.”
Holding hands in pairs, children stopped to examine holes in the earth or trees to see what creatures might live there. As they carefully tread across a split log bridge over a creek, they suddenly stopped – eyes wide! Twenty frogs splashed into the water!
Further down the trail, they saw where a bigger animal might live. “Look at this tree stump,” said DeGiorgio. “Do you see something unusual?”
“There’s a big hole! It could be an animal home.” said Annabel.
Back in the classroom, children made drawings and noted observations in their science journals. They discussed their afternoon and added to a list of attributes of native creatures and where they live. Later this fall they will set up a museum filled with evidence of their learning: model habitats, research and drawings of animals, amphibians, bees and butterflies.
Along with observing nature, during each Muddy Boots Club session students play a variety of games which relate to the topics they’re studying, conduct nature scavenger hunts or answer questions like “Who eats what in the woods?”
Wonder-filled Friday afternoons in Muddy Boots Club balancing on branches, collecting treasures and making observations in the woods teach children to care deeply about natural science and the environment. The program goals include developing a sense of place, wonder and discovery, observing the connections and relationships between living and non-living things, and fostering stewardship of the environment.
You can find out more about the program and this worldwide trend in education outdoors, in the blog Pre K at Planet Parker written by preschool teacher Michelle Ridgeway, and K-1 Happenings by DeGiorgio.