Tia Filler and Noelle Pasta

Saanich branches into ‘nature’ education

Swan Lake to host outdoor preschool this September

The Swan Lake Nature sanctuary is no stranger to young kids ambling among the critters and greenery at home in the urban wetland.

But come September, the lake and its trails will be the daily outdoor classroom for kids three to five years old, as Saanich launches its first nature preschool program.

Last September, the Sooke School District was the first in Greater Victoria to offer nature kindergarten, which immersed kids in a forest as a key component to early learning.

Saanich is effectively following suit with preschool-aged kids, under the concept that as a whole, the next generation of youth aren’t spending enough time outside the urban setting, and often don’t have ready access to wild spaces.

“Three- to five-year-olds will get a base of stewardship for the outdoors and become comfortable with it, and seek it out,” said Chris Filler, a recreation programmer organizing Saanich’s nature preschool. “These kids are the next generation of stewards. If they don’t know or understand the natural world, where will we be?”

Filler belonged to the advisory group that helped launch nature K out of Sangster elementary in Colwood, and recognized the benefits in health and well-being by allowing kids to explore natural areas.

“The moment I heard about nature K, I thought ‘what do I need to do at Saanich to make this happen?’” he said. “It’s more unstructured play time, more opportunity to connect with nature and using parkland and play spaces for education.”

The preschool program at Swan Lake will have an early learning educator and access to park naturalists, but the adults will take their cues from the kids – where they wander and which creatures they find will be the basis for the day’s lessons.

“They can expect to be outside for about two and a half hours each day. Rain, snow, sleet or sun, they’ll be out in it,” Filler said.

“I think the biggest challenge will be getting them back in the car. This is play-based preschool which allows them the freedom to explore. It won’t be a challenge to get them involved, motivated and jazzed up.”

Swan Lake will be providing a large space within the nature house for the preschool. Barry Janyk, executive director of Swan Lake, said this type of preschool program is a perfect fit for the sanctuary.

“It’s great we have the facilities to provide to the Saanich rec folks. It another way to serve the community,” Janyk said.

“I think the trails will be fascinating to kids and the boardwalk will be a huge hit. And kids will get to see the passage of the seasons. It starts the progression of learning about the natural world.”

Frances Krusekopf, the nature K project manager for the Sooke School District, said so far their 21 kindergarten-aged kids are thriving in the forest of Royal Roads University and at the Esquimalt Lagoon.

For their age, the K kids are showing high levels of independence and strong co-operation with each other, she said. And weather conditions have never prevented the class from going outside – although a Christmas pageant did.

“They spent two days indoors and the educators and kids felt disappointed they couldn’t go outside. They have a keen interest in getting outside,” Krusekopf said.

“It’s been a really wet two or three months but the children continue to find great pleasures in the wettest of days. They’re always amazed at how many worms are out there.”

Krusekopf said for any nature education, including preschool programs, kids need to be taught the expectations on how to stay safe, but also be allowed to make their own decisions.

“This model has existed for decades in Europe and it starts with three year olds. That age group isn’t new to this.”

Registration is open for Saanich’s nature preschool program. Call the Gordon Head rec centre at 250-475-7100 or 250-475-7107.

editor@saanichnews.com

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Capital Regional District is considering adding another dollar a year to the parkland acquisition fund fee for homeowners. (Black Press Media file photo)
One dollar or two? Greater Victoria parks acquisition fee hike spurs debate

$2 a year too steep, CRD committee recommends $1 a year increase per household

Vancouver Island-based Wilson’s Transportation has expanded to fill some of the routes left unserviced by Greyhound as of Nov. 1, 2018. (Black Press files)
B.C. bus companies say they need help to survive COVID-19

Like airlines, motor coaches have lost most of their revenue

Patrol officers from VicPD’s Esquimalt division responded to a call about hateful graffiti in Macaulay Park Wednesday evening. (Black Press Media file photo)
Anti-Semitic, hate-based graffiti found in Esquimalt park

Police seek suspects after fresh hate-based graffiti found Wednesday evening

Alyssa Gerwing, executive director of the Sidney Museum and Archives, gets into the Halloween spirit with a lit-up jack-o-lantern. With Treat Street cancelled, the Sidney Business Improvement Area Society has organized a series of other events and activities under the heading of Halloween Spooktacular. (Wolfgang Depner/News Staff)
Sidney serves up ghoulish spills and thrills during Halloween

A virtual Halloween treasure hunt and scary drive-in movies among tricks and treats

Artists, activists and supporters stand at the ‘More Justice, More Peace’ mural in Victoria’s Bastion Square after the letter ‘S’ was painted over in black. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
ACAB removed from Victoria’s More Justice, More Peace mural

New message points to VicPD, City of Victoria for silencing BIPOC voices

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

MNP senior economist Susan Mowbray presents the State of the Island Economic Report on Thursday night to conclude the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance’s virtual summit. (VIEA image)
Not-so-rosy State of the Island report caps off virtual summit

Vancouver Island Economic Alliance’s summit took place online Oct. 27-29

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Allentown, Pa. on Oct. 26. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
POLL: How closely are you following the U.S. presidential election?

It may feel like it’s been going on forever but the U.S.… Continue reading

Burnaby RCMP responded to a dine-and-dash suspect who fell through a ceiling in March 2020. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Suspected dine-and-dasher falls through ceiling of Burnaby restaurant

A woman believed to be dashing on her restaurant bill fell through the kitchen ceiling

A can of Canada Dry Ginger Ale is shown in Toronto on Thursday Oct. 29, 2020. The maker of Canada Dry Ginger Ale has agreed to pay over $200,000 to settle a class-action lawsuit launched by a B.C. man who alleged he was misled by marketing suggesting the soda had medicinal benefits. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Joseph O’Connal
B.C. man’s lawsuit over marketing of Canada Dry ginger ale settled for $200K

Soda’s maker, Canada Dry Mott’s Inc., denied the allegations and any liability

A deer was spotted in October 2020 in Prince Rupert, B.C., with a bright pink yoga ball stuck in its antlers. (Kayla Vickers/Chronicles Of Hammy The Deer Official Page)
Hammy 2.0? Prince Rupert deer spotted with bright pink yoga ball stuck in antlers

The BC Conservation Officer Service is aware of the deer roaming around the city

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Kelowna Mountie hit with 2nd lawsuit in 2 months for alleged assault

Const. Julius Prommer is accused of breaking a woman’s knee during while responding to a noise complaint

Hirdeypal Batth, 24, has been charged with sexual assault and forcible confinement in relation to an incident in August 2020. (VPD handout)
Man, 24, charged with sex assault after allegedly posing as Uber driver in Vancouver

Investigators believe there could be more victims outside of the Vancouver area

Pilot Kevin Maher participated in a flyover of a ceremony at the Cobble Hill cenotaph on Oct. 22 in a 1940 North American (Noorduyn) Harvard aircraft. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Cobble Hill remembers lost military members with ceremony, flyover

Annual event commemorates those who died in non-combat roles

Most Read