Natural Learning

"Children have neither past nor future; and that which seldom
happens to us, they rejoice in the present."
—Jean de la Bruyere

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Wildflower Cottage is a place where children can dance in the wind, discover bugs, grow a flower, smell an herb, create with rocks, investigate, ask deep questions, and daydream. Natural materials—both indoors and out—provide children with a sense of calm and wonder.

Each time we head to nature, we see something new, something beautiful, and something we may never see again. Each time a child engages in nature, he finds an ever-changing environment that offers new possibilities. Whether it is a decomposing log, large loose parts to construct freely, or a plant palette which changes with each season, there is a promise that every time a child visits that space, their experience will be different from the last. There is something for every child to explore and enjoy in very unique ways.

We believe that regular connections with the natural world encourage children to develop:

  • Respect for local cultures and climates and respect for themselves as a part of nature.
  • Feelings of unity, peace, and well-being as global citizens.

We believe it is important for teachers to:

  • Allow enough time each day for children to explore freely in nature-based outdoor and indoor environments.
  • Respect children as competent, powerful learners who have a voice in what they create and learn through nature.
  • Support children’s appropriate risk-taking and adventurous play in nature.
  • Provide children with opportunities for silence and contemplation in natural settings.
  • Encourage children’s development of a sense of wonder and a sense of environmental stewardship.
    —excerpts from “Wonder Newsletter” by the Nature Action Collaborative for Children

Excerpts from Elizabeth Brignac's article, "Our Big Backyard"

October 2015 issue of Carolina Parent

"In 2005, Richard Louv brought widespread U.S. attention to nature-based play experiences with his best-selling book, Last Child in the Woods, which suggests methods to combat what Louv calls “nature deficit disorder.” Louv believes spending time in nature is essential for children, and medical research supports his belief.

In 2010, Frances E. Kuo, a natural resources and environmental sciences associate professor at the University of Illinois, reviewed medical studies examining the effects of nature-based experiences on human health. She found that regardless of all other factors, experiences in nature are good for people. Spending time in green areas helps combat obesity, relieves anxiety, helps children with attention difficulties to focus, reduces aggression — the list goes on. “Rarely do the scientific findings on any question align so clearly,” Kuo writes.

“Hands-on nature play experiences … are retained as vivid memories, often for the rest of life” writes Robin Moore, director of the Natural Learning Initiative.

Most natural play areas differ from traditional playgrounds in their emphasis on loose, natural parts, giving children creative autonomy and room to explore as they play. “Children can manipulate the environment,” Jan Weems (Nature PlaySpace team) says. “You can make a merry-go-round go around, but you can’t move it; you can’t change it.”

“The space doesn’t dictate the play” Dawn Mak (Nature PlaySpace team) adds. “Here they can use all their senses. It’s picking up the leaves and the mulch and moving them around and smelling things.” Kids might stack wood pieces, or bake them as “cookies;” they might plant a “garden” using soft dirt, shovels and branches. The possibilities depend on the child’s imagination and creative use of the materials.”


We are currently accepting applications to join our Waitlist. 

Please contact us to learn more.

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