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Spend any length of time around young children and you might tire of hearing ‘Why?’. They’re naturally curious about the world around them and they want answers to their questions. In Tawingo College’s outdoor kindergarten class, those questions are the launching points for learning.
The class comprises three levels: pre-kindergarten, junior kindergarten (JK), and senior kindergarten (SK). Collectively, the school calls them K-Pals. There are a maximum of 16 students each year with two teachers – that gives them lots of one-on-one time and many opportunities to ask questions and discover the answers. And they do almost all of their learning outdoors, fall, winter and spring, no matter what the weather.
“Every lesson is motivated by something the kids are interested in,” says Tia Pearse, Principal of Tawingo College. “The teachers use that as a launching pad. In the past they’ve wondered about shelters so they built shelters. They’ve wondered why some water freezes and some doesn’t, so they try to make ice and snow. It all comes from them. They can have writing assignments based on what they’re interested in or they can do math. The curriculum takes care of itself if they are allowed to explore what they are interested in.”
Here’s how teacher Linda Haycroft describes it:
The school’s learning is based on the Reggio model, an approach developed by psychologist Loris Malaguzzi after World War II which emphasizes self-guided discovery and exploration for preschool and primary-grade students.
“They get to wonder about the world which will ultimately make them lifelong learners because they will always be asking questions,” says Tia.
This is what a K-Pals outdoor learning discussion sounds like at Tawingo:
As one teacher is guiding the class, another is noting what students say and taking pictures. Those are shared with parents via a closed Twitter account throughout the day.
They work on some literacy inside, reading in the morning and writing in the afternoon – pre-Ks and JKs may be drawing while the SKs work on printing letters and making words. Math happens all day, naturally, and some of what they learn will be taken back into the classroom and translated into things like graphs and charts.
The kids are engaged and love their time at school, says Tia. Being outdoors gives them opportunity to move more than classroom-bound students would and a healthy lunch is included in their tuition. Many don’t want to go home at the end of the day. It’s why some parents choose Tawingo over daycare, either for full days or half days. And, as with daycare, Tawingo’s tuition for non-mandatory school years – pre-K and JK – is tax deductible.
It’s not just the K-Pals who spend their days outside, though. Tawingo offers all of its students ample opportunity to take the curriculum out of doors on the property’s 270 acres. It also has a beautiful school building equipped with a computer lab, music area, art studio and science room that students use every day.
“We strive to get our students outside regularly each day,” says Tia.
Tawingo welcomes students of interested families for a day to see what the school is all about. For more information, visit tawingocollege.net.
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