Project Profile: Nature Preschool at the Surrey Nature Centre
The Surrey Nature Centre, located in the lower Mainland of British Columbia, Canada, offers various programs for the community, centered around the natural environment of Green Timbers park next to the main building. The Nature Centre, open to the public, is a lovely, calm place with a variety of spaces for different functions. The Sky Room, an interpretive space, houses displays of local flora and fauna, a reading nook filled with plant and animal guidebooks, and a family area. There is another large flexible space that allows for additional meetings or birthday parties. Plus their Nature Preschool internal space.
Their Nature Preschool is an early years program for 4 year-olds, operated through the City of Surrey, which follows the British Columbia Early Learning Framework. As the program name suggests, it really is a ‘Nature’ Preschool. The children spend 95% of their time outdoors in the beautiful natural environment that surrounds the main building. They are even dropped off and picked up by their parents outside, only venturing indoors if the weather really is adverse.
Their philosophy beautifully expresses the intention behind the program:
Our Nature Preschool program takes place almost exclusively outdoors in the rich learning environments of our urban park spaces. Children’s experiences at Nature Preschool are shaped by what is happening around them in terms of the landscape and seasonal changes and their interest in them. As children become more comfortable in these natural environments, their relationship with the land and their connection to it grows.
Our educators are committed to honoring and respecting each child’s individual learning styles, strengths and abilities. The responsive curriculum and collaborative learning process focus on all areas of healthy child development: social, emotional, physical, creative and cognitive.
Spending time in nature has many health benefits and together with our educators’ guidance, each child is empowered to play, learn and grow in ways that will support them to reach their highest potential and prepare them to be active participants in their own learning.
Environmental stewardship is an integral part of both the Nature Centre and the preschool curriculum. Educators will engage the children in discussion around how to interact with the natural world in respectful and caring ways. With time, and as their relationship with place strengthens, the intention is that these young learners will care for the spaces they play and learn in, now, and well into the future. It’s this fostering of connection that brought the leadership team of the Nature Centre and Natural Pod together. They knew they wanted the internal environment to reflect the natural one outside and provide that continuation for all the programs it offered. That intention even included providing the educators with the Better Together ChopValue adjustable-height table set. Due to their sustainable nature of being created from pre-used recycled chopsticks, these sets were the ideal furniture to foster ongoing environmental awareness and offer a daily reminder of how each of us can support sustainable practices.
You can see from the photos below how beautiful and intentionally created the outside space is, and how our Natural Pod furniture echo’s the outdoor environment and creates a perfect backdrop for the learning that’s happening within the Nature Centre.
The stunning Indigenous artworks that adorn the windows and doors of the Centre were created by Kwantlen First Nation artist, Wes Antone. His traditional name is X.ex.elles, which means “likes to draw.” His designs are inspired by animals and the lessons they share. snəw̓eyəɬ is a word in hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓, one of the Indigenous languages of the Coast Salish peoples, that roughly translates to mean “sacred teachings.” The Kwantlen people believe the lessons we need to learn are simply there in the natural world around us. The artist wants visitors, particularly the many children who frequent the Centre, to understand the meaning that the Kwantlen associate with each figure. Fern Gabriel, a member of the Nation and hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ language teacher, provided the lessons the animals can teach us, as well as the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ translations of the animal names.