Plenty of research supports the concept that hands-on learning leads to greater educational understanding and overall cognitive development. Hands-on learning at the preschool level sets children up for a lifetime of educational success.
Preschool of the Arts in Mount Pleasant uses the Reggio Emilia philosophy to encourage curiosity in a child-led approach. Exposing children to art and nature fosters their natural inquisitiveness and creativity.
“There is a collaborative relationship between arts and nature,” says Rachel Lessard, executive director of Preschool of the Arts. “When children are exposed to both, they form a deeper and more meaningful relationship to the natural world.”
Lessard points out four key reasons art and nature are excellent teaching tools for preschoolers.
1. Exposure to arts and nature benefits all seven learning domains in early childhood development: cognitive development, language development, social/emotional development, fine motor development, gross motor development, spiritual/moral development and adaptive development.
At Preschool of the Arts, children work with natural materials, both indoors and out. Children are given the materials that will spark creativity, thought and expression, Lessard explains.
“When given a stick and some leaves, they form paintbrushes,” she adds. “When given the experience of the outdoors, they communicate these experiences through art.”
2. Exposure to arts and nature can help children form critical thinking skills. Art is about making something entirely new, so children naturally learn how to express their own perspectives and ideas through their artistic expression and ingenuity.
3. Exposure to arts and nature form a stronger self-image and bridges collaborative efforts among peers. Hands-on learning through art and nature often involves teamwork, sharing ideas, building confidence, and working together to create a final product. These skills will follow them into school and the workplace as adults.
4. Nature-based art builds awareness and desire for conservation and sustainability for the earth. Getting up close to nature makes it feel more tangible and fosters a desire to protect those natural resources.
“We believe in getting our hands dirty and exploring the tastes, textures, smells and sounds that the natural world provides,” Lessard says.
The instructors at Preschool of the Arts consider the outdoors an extension of the classroom. In the school’s organic garden, children watch plants grow from seed. They've tasted the brightness of cilantro, the crisp of a sugar snap pea and the earthiness of kale, Lessard explains.
The children have used calendula flowers to create a dye for handmade play dough, she adds. They've painted with sticks and leaves, and dug their hands deep into soil. They've listened intently to birds in the nearby trees, and watched as deer and fox pass by.
“Instead of learning about these things in a picture book, all their senses are taking in what nature inherently provides,” Lessard says. “This early exposure to nature and art lays a strong foundation for future learning.”
To learn more about Preschool of the Arts, visit online at PreschooloftheArtsCharleston.com or call (843) 884-2323.