Westcliff Early Learning Academy - Embracing Nature

Embracing Nature: Why Westcliff Early Learning Academy Prioritizes Outdoor Experiences

One pillar in Westcliff Early Learning Academy’s philosophy is an unwavering dedication to nurturing a profound connection between children and the natural world that surrounds them. With the overwhelming influence of screens and digital devices, we stand by our mission to reintroduce children to the wonders of nature. Richard Louz, author of “Last Child in the Woods,” emphasizes a philosophy of nature-centric education aimed at combating what he refers to as “nature-deficit disorder.”

Westcliff Early Learning Academy Environmental EducationNature-deficit disorder happens when children aren’t exposed to enough free time in nature with activities, such as collecting pine cones, playing with sticks, digging in the dirt, and making mud pies. When children don’t have opportunities to engage in open-ended nature activities like these, results indicate a decrease in sensory engagement, difficulty paying attention, and an increase in physical illness. At Westcliff Early Learning Academy, our goal is to reverse this trend by integrating various nature-based activities into our curriculum to provide enriching experiences for our students, including:

Nature play: We encourage play in undeveloped, natural outdoor settings allowing children to explore, discover, and connect with the world around them.

Risky play: Engaging in activities like climbing, exploring heights, and using natural tools fosters resilience, problem-solving skills, and a sense of adventure.

Westcliff Early Learning Academy Exploring NatureEnvironmental education: Our curriculum includes lessons on the natural world and instills a sense of responsibility, teaching children to appreciate and care for their environment.

Outdoor classroom: While we have a good balance between indoor and outdoor learning– we refer to our playground as our “outdoor classroom” because learning is in every space. 

Natural loose parts: Rocks, logs, pinecones, and other natural materials serve as open-ended toys, fostering creativity, imagination, and sensory exploration.

Westcliff Early Learning Academy Outdoor ClassroomOutdoor experiences resonate deeply with us at Westcliff Early Learning Academy. We see the profound impact on a child’s mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing when they spend time in nature. Our specifically designed nature elements for our outdoor classroom are for each specific age group: infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. We believe that we should prioritize nature not merely as a leisure activity but as a fundamental aspect of children’s health and development.

Studies have shown that exposure to green outdoor environments significantly reduces symptoms of ADHD in children. More importantly, nature play enhances cognitive development, creativity, and problem-solving skills, providing children with a holistic learning experience.

At Westcliff Early Learning Academy, we are committed to fostering a deep connection with nature in our students. By immersing them with natural materials and outdoor experiences, we aim to nurture their curiosity, resilience, and appreciation for the natural world. Let’s embrace all that our organic world offers us while shaping our children’s physical and mental wellbeing for success.