Growing up my family had a cabin, we would go up north every weekend and it was something I looked forward to all week. My siblings and I would spend the whole weekend exploring outside. The lake allowed us to explore all the different water creatures and plants. We would spend our time digging for worms to use as bait, have competitions who could catch the most fish, go out on the boat searching for turtles, and walk around the edge of the lake hunting for frogs.
Besides having the lake we had a few acres of land. We would spend hours in the woods playing. We would make “camps” that contained teepees, we would spend days collecting large sticks to make our shelters, we would find our favorite spots in the trees to hide out and eventually even ended up making a tree house and tire swing. But then every Sunday we would have to leave our forest wonderland and come home and go back to school.
LifeWays is fantastic in many ways but the best thing about LifeWays is it gives all the children a chance to experience what I got to experience as a child every day. The children love searching for worms, slugs, and toads. They sometimes walk through the woods quiet as can be to hear all the animals and hopefully spot a turkey or a deer. They find trees that become their castle, lion den, pirate ship, or automobiles.
LifeWays has taught me that nature isn’t just a place for free play but is also a great learning experience for children. Children learn how to get themselves dressed appropriately for the weather. The zippers, buttons, and laces are all examples of things that help children with their fine motor skills. While outside, children are running around, climbing trees and rocks, going on hikes, and moving logs developing their gross motor skills. Children also get a chance to learn about different bugs, birds, animals, plants, weather, seasons, and where their food comes from.
The best thing about nature is that children get to learn through play and exploration. I used to think it was the teacher’s job to plan minute by minute what the children would be doing and what they would be learning. But now I know as a teacher it is most important to be good role model, to let the children play and work through their own problems, and chime in when necessary. LifeWays taught me not to take nature for granted and how important the role nature is for children, and that nature acts as a child’s wonderland.