Thursday, February 09, 2012

Is your child's care facility measuring up?

The North American Association for Environmental Education has published their
Early Childhood Environmental Education Rating Scale. The Guidelines for Excellence identify six key characteristics for high-quality early childhood environmental education programs.

I think these guidelines are spot on and tuned to what todays kids need. They incorporate nature and environment right from the beginning and throughout the document. If only this rating scale was used everywhere, we would be creating true stewards of tomorrow. Below are some of my favorite sections.

Key Characteristic 1: Program Philosophy, and Purpose
Includes a Focus on Nature and the Environment.

Look for:
- appropriate specimen collection (e.g., flowers, leaves, insects, pinecones, nuts, rocks)
- adults as role models for the care of plants and animals in the environment
- the development of respect and a sense of stewardship
- modeling environmental responsibility in facility design, maintenance, materials, and waste management.

Key Characteristic 5: Places and Spaces

The integration of natural components throughout places and spaces is essential if elanring opportunities and development are to be maximized.

Look for:
- In outdoor areas, use of asphalt is reduced; gardens, woods, natural pathways, and other natural elements are incorporated.
- Natural materials are used to create the environment and objects for play both indoors and outdoors.
- Abundant “loose parts” (sticks, leaves, seeds, logs, stones), earth materials (soil, sand, and rocks), and “rough ground” (uneven, rocky, challenging areas) are included in the outdoor environment.
- Safe and supervised water features are provided.
- The outdoor areas are landscaped so as to be inviting to appropriate wildlife, including birds and bugs.
- Plants are incorporated into the indoor environment.
- Native plants are used in outdoor areas to help children know what their biological heritage is, to reduce maintenance, and to support native fauna such as butterflies and birds.
- Outdoor and indoor areas incorporate a wide variety of natural features and materials to promote interest and encourage interaction. Materials indoors are changed frequently and seasonal changes in the natural world are features.

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