WinSport’s Early Explorers program builds on our legacy of fostering resilient, confident, creative and self-directed individuals with some of our youngest of citizens aged 3-8 years old.
Elements critical to the Early Explorers program include a commitment to outdoor play; a deep interest in movement; emergent curriculum; and support risk-taking.
Earlier this semester on a crisp fall morning, our Friday class spent time experiencing the fall leaves. We discovered a large ash tree that had shed most of its leaves in our snowstorm. The children were immediately drawn to it, especially playing in its mountainous piles of leaves.
They started by shuffling around their feet. I saw their interest in the leaves as a perfect play opportunity and halted our plans for the final 45 minutes of the day. I sat amongst the leaves with them, while many of them went to retrieve shovels and rakes from mud kitchen. Soon, we were throwing, gathering, and rolling in the piles of leaves around us. The joy and laughter filled our space. Then we began to pile the leaves, some for jumping, and some for throwing. The children broke off into small groups, negotiating the rules of the piles and collaborating to build bigger and bigger piles. Some children built beds, others made piles for throwing and shoveling.
Abandoning our structure for a short time and just embracing the moment the natural world offered us, allowed us to create amazing memories outside together. Through our leaf play, we found laughter and collaboration. We also found we were learning about working together on common goals, setting boundaries with friends, and developing new creative ways to play with leaves which allowed us to grow. We developed creativity, teamwork and social-emotional skills, all while simply playing in the leaves. Just like when the forest floor is covered in its autumn blanket, in play, we are experiencing that there is always more happening then what appears on the surface.