The next best thing to being outdoors is to have further outdoor experiences inside. Nature is a provocateur; it evokes memories and nurtures our sense of well being. Within our indoor environment, space continues to be used imagitively and with careful consideration. With these thoughts in mind I recently covered one of our large low tables with locally grown ‘ready lawn’. This lush, soft, green backdrop transformed a wooden table into a new area for wonder and engagement.
Monday saw the beginning of a new term at Kindergarten; with the children’s return I was eager to observe their responses to this fresh provocation. Whilst our attending children are well used to encounters with nature indoors; covering a whole table in turf was a new experience for us all.
Interestingly (though not surprising), for many children their initial attention was captured by the resources that were offered on top of the turf. As I observed it affirmed my thinking; that for young children aesthetics are often connected to ‘an appreciation of pleasant and special sensory experiences’ (ECE Educate).
As the ebb and flow of the day continued many different children were drawn to the experience of the ‘grassy table’. At one point Tiaki who was eager to share with me his latest discovery beckoned me over:
“This grass is real! First we thought it was fake, but then we saw the dirt, and now we know it’s real!”
Tiaki’s surprise in discovering the unexpected was reflected in other children’s thinking:
For other children the rolled out turf provided a provocation to engage in lateral thinking and learning through a real and immediate experience. Kate very quickly deciphered that the grass was real; however she questioned how the grass came to be on the table. Kate’s inquiry led her to look very closely at the cut turf, and to look underneath. In her exploration’s Kate discovered that grass has tiny roots; and that the earth beneath is cold and wet.
Bringing the outside in helps support the belief that children can best create meaning and make sense of their world through playing in complex, rich environments. The all-encompassing effect of regularly connecting with nature is be to nurtured. It’s just as Livia stated, “It feels softly soft to your hands”.
“Invite nature in.”