March 11, 2016

Lime Hollow program adds fun to education

mudPhoto by Maryfaith Miller
Three-year-old Gray Jackson inspects his mud-covered hands during Lime Hollow Nature Center’s Forest Preschool program in fall 2015.

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — Learning to explore while being surrounded by nature is the key concept behind Lime Hollow’s Forest Preschool.
“For those students or parents that are unsure about the program, spring is the perfect opportunity for them to join us for a day of learning,” teacher Maryfaith Miller said Wednesday as the preschool begins its second year.
The preschool expanded to three days from one for this spring of 2015 and Miller added twoadditional teachers. Miller said the program is looking to increase enrollment and expand to a full day from a 9 a.m. to noon schedule.Enrollment is now nine, up from four last fall.
Children at the school learn about nature and weather at their own pace and teachers encourage them to look more deeply and ask questions.
Miller said one advantage of the school is providing children the natural environment in which to learn. She said that she sees the children tripping constantly through leaf litter in the beginning of the year, and by the end students learn quickly how to make their way through the changing slopes of the trails and woods.
Glenn Reisweber, executive director of Lime Hollow, said Miller introduced the concept to him in 2014 and he was excited to jump on board the program.
“These little guys and gals are just unbelievable when it comes to adjusting to nature, no matter what the weather,” Reisweber said Thursday.
Miller said the winter gave students the perfect opportunity to spend more days outside, although a classroom has been set up in the center’s environmental building for days when wind and weather are too much for little ones. Parents understand their children need proper clothing.
The idea of forest kindergarten stems from a German program, Waldkindergarten, which involves preschool age children learning in nature. The concept developed in the 1960s.
Reisweber said that study after study from the European models show that students have greater problem-solving and communications skills when they are thrown into social situations like the nature preschool.
Miller said she got the idea from a documentary entitled, “School’s Out,” that highlighted the advantages of teaching 3- to 5-year-olds in a nature setting.
And unlike preschools with a set curriculum, the forest preschool lets each child investigate and learn about what they want as they explore the forest environment, Miller said.
“This is unique to the Cortland area because our preschool isn’t the typical cookie cutter model of area programs,” Reisweber said Thursday.

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