At Olympic Nature Experience, we support our students so they build:
- A Curious Mind: Daily inquiry is encouraged and supported by our teachers. Our curriculum extends past the ‘daily plan’ and meets the organically occurring wonders and curiosities of the student. Our children are provided with the space they need to foster creativity and critical thinking skills through both structured and unstructured opportunities.
- A Strong Spirit: We try, we fail, we reevaluate, we try again. We succeed. We encourage students to take risks, build resilience, be strong leaders and self-advocates. Through exploration and friendships, challenging our past abilities and experimenting with how the world works, we build our confidence and a strength we didn’t know we had.
- A Growing Body: Movement is limited to the space we are provided and outdoors students are free to hike, climb, dig, run, splash, and skip. Whether they are drawing in the sand, investigating in the mud, or crossing a log on the trail, students are offered endless opportunities that will strengthen and prepare them physically, not only for kindergarten, but for life.
- A Caring Heart: The trail beneath our feet is the floor, the forest the walls, and the sky our ceiling. Nature is our classroom and collectively, our home. Building a strong and supportive classroom community as our backbone, will gain deeper social-emotional understanding and literacy. At our school we learn to care for the world, the inhabitants that we share it with, and each other.
Content shared from Mountain Sprouts Children’s Community
Safety is our highest priority and we are constantly aware of the environment and all changes that are happening including the children’s abilities and energies as well as the weather and location.
Our instructors are specially trained to recognize forest and nature dangers and prevent unnecessary risks while children play in the forest. We teach children to recognize and asses their own safety levels and ensure that the boundaries around their play are clear and followed. Some inherent risk occurs while children play in the forest, however, we feel that this risk is developmentally appropriate and satisfies children’s need for challenge and growth of their physical and emotional selves.
Children and adults alike learn through play. Play is the most important learning tool for children up to age 7. Through play, children learn social skills, develop their own identity, build self confidence, learn to see things from another person’s point of view (role playing) which develops empathy and compassion, and delve deeply into their unique passions (“Do I like to play teahouse or build airplanes?”).
Through play children learn complex lessons around math and literacy, physics (“when I add water, the mud gets runnier”, “that rock went farther because it was bigger”), biology (“the slug has eye stalks instead of regular eyes like me”, “the spiders die at the end of the summer”) and personal awareness (“I need to take my sweater off because I have been running”, “I am scared, will you help me”).
Yes, the children are playing, but they are learning a wealth of knowledge while they do. The benefit of allowing children to learn while immersed in a forest, is that their learning has real world context. They learn math WHILE learning two different plant species, or they learn physics with water WHILE learning about ecosystems and the bugs/animals that live in muddy water. All this WHILE they learn about their own comfort levels and body cues.
In order to encourage interactive play, we provide our students with unstructured time in nature to explore and have their own wonder-filled experiences with nature.
During the school year your child will need proper outdoor clothing to ensure that their time outside is comfortable. This may include multiple under layers; a warm outer layer such as a wool sweater, fleece, or down jacket; a rain jacket that fits over the warm layer; rain pants; boots, wool or fleece socks; a warm winter hat and a sun hat; a neck warmer; and mittens. A comprehensive list of suggested clothing is provided in the Family Handbook.
Sequim and Port Angeles Places to Play and Explore
Here are some local resources for getting your family outside in the Sequim and Port Angeles area.
Dungeness River Audubon Center
This park is cooperatively run by the Audubon Society and the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and is a rich source of information and a great place to play and explore. They have a lending library and programs for kids and adults, as well as great specimens on display.
Clallam County Parks and Rec
Clallam County has 16 managed parks and beaches, including the Olympic Discovery trail and camping sites. Day use parks are free and most of these parks are scenic.
Olympic National Park (ONP)
For general information about the wilderness, trails and great visitor center located at the bottom of Hurricane Ridge in Port Angeles, see their website above.
Resorts at ONP
For information and reservations for the resorts located within the ONP, including Sol Duc Hot Springs and Lake Crescent.
Nature Bridge at ONP
This is a teaching program designed for children and families. They specialize in hands on learning, science, and stewardship with day and overnight camps and classes.
Feiro Marine Life Center
A research and educational organization located on Port Angeles’s City Pier. This is a great place for kids, with touch tanks and live exhibits and only a small entrance fee.
A local primal arts training center and community which offers classes, gatherings and workshops.
Webster’s Woods Art Park
Located at the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center, the park is a wooded outdoor museum full of trails and surprises. A delightful place to roam and have a picnic, great for children of all ages and its FREE!
Master Gardener’s Demonstration Garden
This is a beautiful place to roam and get inspiration and info for your gardening projects.
Small parks are everywhere in Sequim and Port Angeles. Search the city websites for the closest parks to you and don’t forget to check out the creeks, trees and wild spaces in these parks. Carrie Blake park is a special favorite with tiny wooded trails, a stream and the dirt bike track which is great for adventure play.
We’re constantly looking for great resources for our families. Below is a complete list of the resources we’ve gathered so far.
Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature by Jon Young, Evan McGown, and Ellen Haas
Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
Children and Nature: Psychological, Sociocultural, and Evolutionary Investigations by Peter H. Kahn and Stephen R. Kellert
Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast: Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, and Alaska by Jim Poplar and Andy MacKinnon