Incorporating Animals and Nature Into Early Childhood Education

June 11, 2021

By Brandy Miller, Nature’s Nursery Farm Teacher

The best part about working with young children is their ability to be present in the moment. Whether it’s laughing, crying, holding hands with a friend, or watching geese fly overhead, children learn through the experiences happening to them, and around them. It’s easy to overthink my job as their teacher. How can I successfully incorporate the importance of animals and nature into their young minds? Quite often, the influential impact of an animal or an environmental belief grows organically from a child’s already sprouted seed of curiosity.

At Nature’s Nursery, exposing young children to the natural world, as much as possible, is my main teaching tool.

What have my life experiences within nature taught me? How can I challenge young children to see the world  differently than they’ve been told or taught through stories? “Are wolves big and bad? Will snakes eat me? Bees are mean!” These are beliefs that I hear from my kids every day, and showing them that animals are living, breathing, vulnerable creatures capable of connection, helps children see that maybe these messages aren’t true.

Preschooler holds a project made up of a cardboard circle, a translucent contact paper center with flowers and leaves placed on it.

Most children who enter our program come with a willingness or desire to see and visit with the animals on campus but some are much more tentative. Terrified of dogs, or hawks, you’ll find these kids standing at the back of the group when a class lines up at the fence to visit with the horses. There are also the fearless children, who come with their own magic, who attract every animal, or have an innate sense as to how to connect and empathize. Children watch other children and the desire to fit in, even at a young age, can often spark an interest that maybe didn’t exist before.

Building bat houses; walking a goat on a leash along Tom’s Trail; petting a bunny with a quiet, still body; helping worms off of the pavement after a rainy day; picking flowers but always leaving some for the bees; turning pine cones into bird feeders…these are active learning experiences for the children in our program.

Preschooler rides pony while one adult leads the horse and another adult supports the student.Once children understand that their role in the natural world matters, they are empowered. Mother Nature and animals teach them boundaries, but they also encourage a huge responsibility to listen, observe, respect, and connect. When learning how their positive and helpful actions affect the world around them, children find compassion, and my hope, as their teacher, is that they carry this discovery into their lives after preschool.

Learn more about Nature’s Nursery

Green Chimneys has been serving the community for over three decades with innovative early education and childcare programs for kids age 3-10. We currently offer Preschool, Bridge and Kindergarten programs, as well as School-Age Care. Explore which programs may support your family