A gathering for Northwest Indian College’s Restorative Teachings Early Childhood Education Initiative recently took place at the Early Learning Center on campus. Joined by parents, aunties, uncles, grandparents, elders, close friends, and children, the community celebrated the completion of the ELC Outdoor Learning Classroom.
While listening to the Eagle Blessing Song, a song that comes from the water, alongside the beating of a drum, a child looks with intention and focus. That itself is demonstrative of the Restorative Teachings ECE Initiative, promoting meaningful and relevant early learning experiences and provoking further discussions of Indigenous peoples and our ways of life.
Featuring a story pole, orca carving, and Lummi language cedar plaques designating the different play and learning areas, the Outdoor Learning Classroom embraces the natural elements of this region. This space was intentionally designed to foster children’s active exploration of their outside environment while learning about Coast Salish ways of life. While in the Outdoor Learning Classroom, early childhood educators engage children in experiential education, thus supporting their learning, growth, and development in a holistic way.
Extending the classroom curriculum to an Outdoor Learning Classroom will help keep children and teachers deeply engaged in the teachings and increases ELC staff’s awareness of ways they implement learning from natural elements. The Outdoor Learning Classroom environment helps to foster this healthy curiosity about the world in young children. Today a community celebrated, consisting of individuals who share not only a vision of connecting early learning experiences to community and to place, but also, who share a respect for learning as Indigenous peoples.
–Article written by Katherine Friday and Nahrin Aziz-Parsons
-Photos courtesy of Juanita Jefferson and Cynthia Wilson