Nature Play On Vancouver Island

Nature Kindergarten On Vancouver Island

Designing a Nature Inspired Classroom

When we were visiting Reggio Emilia Schools in Italy one of the many things that we noticed as observers was the use of natural elements in their centres. Instead of plastic containers they used metal, basket and glass jars. The children used wooden cars in the block centre and lots of tree branches, wooden blocks, stumps and leaves in their play. Two of the schools we visited had potted trees in the classrooms and they all had bouquets of fresh flowers. There was an absence of plastic in the room and abundant use of repurposed materials.

The furniture was all wooden tables, chairs and shelves and lots of small woven rugs throughout the rooms. There were branches hanging from the ceiling and beautiful children's process art with nature pieces including clay, weaving, sculpture and sketches throughout the school. Each centre was different but had beautiful large windows bringing views of trees, yard and sky into the room as well as many mirrors to reflect the outdoors into the classroom. Once large centre even had outdoor rooms attached to each classroom with three glass walls and a brick floor much like an indoor courtyard.

The rooms were lit with sunshine and soft lamps placed around the rooms. Pillows were scattered around the spaces and the atelier often had a glass wall dividing the space from the classroom but with all of the beautiful materials, papers, tools on display.

Here are a few photos of my transformation after visiting Reggio Emilia, Italy.
Teacher Work Space
Student rocks for attendance, sorting, fair turns....
Student Birthday Letters inspired by Fairy Dust Teaching B
Farm Animals Creativity

A cheerful welcome created by Sophia,  a visiting Grade 3 student early one Mondaymorning

Playdoh Creativity

Story Play

Personal, Private Goal Setting

Playful Literacy Inquiry Celebration 

I came back to BC to my classroom inspired and determined to provide my students with the same beautiful child sized space filled with natural elements. We have multiple large windows in our older schools, so I began the transformation by intentionally leaving the window bare and the counters beside the windows with very little display. I also removed all of the materials not presently in use from the room to create visual space. I collected wooden furniture (it does not matter that much of it is older than me this was also the case in Reggio Emilia or that it is repurposed). But it does matter that it does not overwhelm the space, block the sunshine and is sized appropriately. I also added soft toned area rugs and two larger rugs for large block play and meetings.

Repurposed peg board I removed from an old cupboard
Literacy Provocationwith Student Names inspired by a colleague

I brought in plants, trees and asked my friends, family and colleagues for garden flowers and branches from their shrubs for the children to draw, integrate into their play and add some greenery to the room. I also added some hanging branches, stumps, tree blocks as well as a rich collection of wooden block, wooden vehicles and people.  


The story play resources are filled with nature; flowers, tree cookies, stones, driftwood, shells and sticks in addition to a plethora of recycled materials like napkin rings, tiles, buttons and fabric.

The home centre has recycled materials for cooking, dress up and caring for the babies. It has dishes from the thrift store including some wooden bowls, metal trays and a tea pot.

The math centre has wooden blocks, lots of recycled materials for counting, sorting, measuring and playing with, including about 30 glass jars with recycled and nature pieces like hazel nuts, stones, shells and sticks for our weekly counting framework.

Of course the science area has lots of natural resources; feathers, rocks, fossils, shells....

The atelier is filled with baskets and glass jars full of art materials and loose parts for the children's creations which they can put on display in old wooden frames or hang on our classroom clothesline for a day.

I can't wait to go back to Reggio Emilia and learn more about this wonderful program.


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