"Every child should have mud pies, grasshoppers, water bugs, tadpoles, frogs, mud turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, chestnuts, trees to climb. Brooks to wade, water lilies, woodchucks, bats, bees, butterflies, various animals to pet, hayfields, pine-cones, rocks to roll, sand, snakes, huckleberries and hornets; and any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of education.”
Early Ecology is dedicated to providing, high quality early education in the city based on our values of harmony with nature, inquiry and community. Early Ecology is an innovative educational approach to play-based learning in nature’s classroom. Using local green spaces children’s whole beings are engaged in the natural inquiry of their surrounding environment, developing a healthy respect for themselves, one another and nature. Our program model is based on the Esalen Institute’s Gazebo Park School outdoor early childhood program, Europe’s Forest Kindergarten tradition as well as the work being done in the Reggio Emilia child development programs, permaculture ethics & principles and best practices in early childhood education.
We believe that children are thoughtful, capable and hilarious. During our programs children feel safe, respected and cherished while experiencing freedom, creativity and expanding their own potential.
Nature, Inquiry & Community
All of our programs are founded on these values: harmony with nature, inquiry & community.
Whether our classroom is in the redwood forest or on a farm the environment is the primary teacher. As facilitators we help the participants to see the relationships between the many living things: animal, plant, water, mineral, visible or invisible. Our primary teaching tools are: shared joy, guiding questions, projects, games and stories. We teach respect of all things, ourselves, one another, family, community, flora and fauna. Through this respect children naturally learn responsibility, resourcefulness and communication skills.
The rhythms of nature, children's development and interests as well as our program values inform our curriculum. For example the migration of ladybugs in the wintertime, tad poles hatching in the spring and the blackberry harvest in the summertime all bring different lessons and capture the children's sense of wonder. Each of these hands on experiences also deepens the children's understanding of that everything in nature is connected including us.
When the children show an interest in one particular area we weave that into our seasonal curriculum. Everything from reading and writing to mathematics can be taught by building on children's authentic interests, whether that is bird calls, fort building or magic. We are committed to in depth exploration and observation sustained over time, building awareness inside and out. We adapt our classes to the interests and pace of each group, building on their strengths and excitement.
Schools are naturally places where community is formed and where cultural values are affirmed or transformed. We all benefit from healthy connections, within the school (between children and between children and adults) and also outside the school (between families and school, families and one another and between the greater community and school). Teachers model mindful communication and mentor children in direct and compassionate conflict resolution. Children are engaged to the highest level possible in creating community agreements about how we want to treat one another and how we want to spend our time together. Janet Lederman wrote that "we teach paying attention by paying attention" and in our small classes led by highly qualified teachers children learn leadership and collaboration skills by being given the time and attention they deserve.
It is important especially when caring for young children that parents and teachers take the time to develop trusting relationships, this is done informally each day and also through documentation, parent education and family events. We use daily emails with stories and photographs to share with families what each group is learning and exploring. Each family is also offered one coaching session per semester on the topic of their choice.