The Eccles Early Childhood Development Lab has a brand new stance on preschool education: Take the children outside.
The Eccles Lab combines affordable child development programs with a real-world learning environment for students of the SLCC Family & Human Studies Department.
Their new “Nature Explorer Program” encourages children to go outside and not only see nature, but be a part of it as well.
“There are a lot of learning opportunities in the outdoors that are really important for children,” said Eccles Lab manager Sharlie Barber. “Going on a nature walk and observing the world plants the seeds of curiosity.”
The Eccles Lab has started a children’s garden as part of their Nature Explorer program. In these gardens, the children grow many different kinds of vegetables and flowers.
“We have a children’s garden outside. We have them digging in the dirt and being part of that and planting seeds,” said Barber. “[The children] picked the tomatoes themselves and they came inside, washed them and sat down and they all wanted to try it.”
The lab uses the phrase “No Child Left Inside,” a spin-off of the phrase “No Child Left Behind” coined by Richard Louv, which is the name of the education program enacted under President Bush.
“We kind of used [No Child Left Inside] as a little bit of a slogan,” said Barber.
One of the reasons they are pushing this program is because of the impact it has on children with ADD and ADHD. When the children have more time outside it helps them to concentrate better.
“There is large body of research that’s showing us now that children who are outdoors have more relief,” said Sally Schramm, professor at the Eccles Lab. “The greener the environment, the more the relief for children with ADD and ADHD.”
Explore and grow
Some parents have noticed the impact that this program has had on their kids and are very happy with the program’s results.
“My son has grown because of this program and he’s only been here a few weeks” said parent Ina Grill. “I think the program is awesome.”
Grill has noticed that her son is more interested in the outdoors, pays attention better in class and really enjoys his time at the Eccles Lab.
In order to complete their project and provide a better nature-inspired program, Schramm, Barber and their coworkers have designed a natural setting playground for the Lab.
“Our new playground design is amazing,” said Schramm. “We are hopeful to receive administrative approval soon.”
This playground would be non-commercialized, have gardens, streams, rocks, crawl tunnels and an open grass area. They feel that a state-of-the-art playground like this would allow children to learn, explore and grow.