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Diversity EQUALS Health Part 1 of 2: "Nature Preschools and Forest Schools Boost Immunity"

Updated: Dec 3, 2023


girls hand holding woven cattail basket to demonstrate outdoor nature based preschool and triple well being and ecological identity to boost our immunity

Our local and global community is weaving together a diverse and re-wilded culture. Recently a parent in our Outdoor Nature Based (ONB) preschool shared an article about Forest Schools in Finland where studies showed that being outdoors most of the time (even in winter) boosted kids’ immunity. The article was very well researched with citations from primary studies and it overlapped well with a concept that we have been exploring about Triple WellBeing® in the emerging field of regenerative learning ecologies. The sharing of the article lead to a wonderful conversation amongst our guides and families about how Nature Preschools and Forest Schools Boost Immunity.

Triple WellBeing Framework demonstrate outdoor nature based preschool and triple well being and ecological identity to boost our immunity

Triple WellBeing® combines three core skills of thinking, feeling and connecting with three core practices of self-care, people-care and earth care. This framework generates 9 different competencies:


  • self awareness; social awareness; environmental awareness

  • self compassion; compassion for others; compassion for nature [or more than human]

  • resilience and agency; citizenship and belonging; re-wilding and regeneration)


Triple WellBeing Competencies demonstrate outdoor nature based preschool and triple well being and ecological identity to boost our immunity
Images from ThoughtBox Education and Triple WellBeing®

boy using snow in mud kitchen demonstrate outdoor nature based preschool and triple well being and ecological identity to boost our immunity

Being outdoors in all seasons for extended periods certainly exposes our bodies to a diverse network of the microbiome and research from 2020 on "biodiversity interventions" in daycares shows this to boost immunity, we also know that exposure to diverse sensory inputs, diverse gross and fine motor skills practice and diverse species in this research from 2010 about "Using Nature and Outdoor Activity to Improve Childrens Health" helps overall physical, mental and social health.


In addition, ONB Preschools can also lead to an ecological identity and individual cultural actions that give back more that we take. Research shows that kids participating in a Forest School program "demonstrated a more pro-environmental attitude" and in our previous blog post we reflected on how Re-Wilding and Regenerative Learning leads to a holistic playful practice of learning that ultimately centers all 9 competencies of the Triple WellBeing® framework


Beyond research and theory what does this look like on a typical day in an ONB preschool?


jagugar eyes from How Diablo became Spirit demonstrate outdoor nature based preschool and triple well being and ecological identity to boost our immunity
Image from "How Diablo Became Spirit" childrens book from Conscious Stories

How do you center Triple WellBeing® and

cultivate an ecological identity in a 3-6 year old?


Pedagogy of Play and Stories!!!


One day …


the caretaker of the animal sanctuary had almost given up. The jaguar with silky black fur continued to snarl and act aggressively.


Then…


he opened his mind and asked for help. He invited an animal communicator to come “speak” with the Jaguar even though he did not believe that was possible.


Finally…


they listened to the advice from someone with a different view and perception, renamed the jaguar and helped resolve things the jaguar was worried about.



nature based preschool class in the short grass prairie doing story telling story acting demonstrate outdoor nature based preschool and triple well being and ecological identity to boost our immunity

“One day; Then; Finally” are 3 prompts we use in a Storytelling and Story Acting STSA protocol to help 3-6 year olds structure a story of their own creation with a beginning, middle and end. The prompts are loose suggestions to elicit a creative student-led voice and story that the whole class acts out with characters and settings in our circle stage. The student author as director also gets to choose to be a character if they like, or they get to watch their peers act out the story. Research has shown this to be a deeply effective literacy protocol and when done in our outdoor classroom. We also imagine it helps with ecological identity and “perceptual reciprocity” which are topics with questions we propose below that the aunties, uncles, grandparents, parents, step parents, guardians and other adults in the family could study and benefit from in self directed learning online or in one of our in-person adult workshops coming in 2024.


The example story above of the Jaguar is based on a true story about animal communication called “How Diablo Became Spirit” and reveals the potential for cross species communication. We created it as guides after reading the Conscious Stories book to introduce the STSA protocol and show how we can imagine and create from other stories that we know.


This simple weekly activity, done outdoors in all seasons, with intentional content around diversity in the non-human world and diversity in language can connect us to Triple WellBeing®. We practice three core skills of thinking, feeling and connecting with three core practices of self-care, people-care and earth care uncovering over time 9 different competencies:

  • self awareness; social awareness; environmental awareness

  • self compassion; compassion for others; compassion for nature [or more than human]

  • resilience and agency; citizenship and belonging; re-wilding and regeneration)

What does this look like for adults in the family? How can we learn from our 3-6 year olds' experience?


Even if we are not able to comprehend this type of animal communication, or if we believe that it is simply a metaphor of reading body language cues or keen observation, we still benefit from taking the perspective of a different being.

book cover of An Immense World to demonstrate perspective taking and perceptual reciprocity and demonstrate outdoor nature based preschool and triple well being and ecological identity to boost our immunity
Image from Ed Yong An Immense World

Ed. Yong a British-American science journalist highlights this idea in his book “An Immense World” showing:


“The Earth teems with sights and textures, sounds and vibrations, smells and tastes, electric and magnetic fields. But every kind of animal, including humans, is enclosed within its own unique sensory bubble, perceiving but a tiny sliver of our immense world.”


This perspective taking (or at is most advanced and deepest level, animal communication) can lead us on the journey of cultivating an ecological identity and increasing our capacity for what author Mitchel Thomashow calls “perceptual reciprocity”


Ecological Identity is well known Mitchell Thomashow’s book by the same name and is further expanded through Joana Macy’s ritual of “The Council of All Beings”.


At Nature School Cooperative we encompass both of these at a 3-6 year old level by allowing the kids to explore a “Wild Name”.


As adults in the family YOU can also choose a Wild Name!


This is also known in Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature as a "nature name" but since we want kids and families to embrace the concept that humans ARE nature we call it our Wild Name. Students also create stories in the Story Telling Story Acting literacy protocol and begin imagining how to talk to that being.

kids at science center station in forest school to demonstrate outdoor nature based preschool and triple well being and ecological identity to boost our immunity

“What will all this eventually yield? What will happen when you find the middle ground, blending perceptions along with the shared perspectives of multiple people, generations, cultures, networks, creatures, and landscapes?” (Thomashow 2020)


GENEROSITY


and from generosity


WELLBEING


and from wellbeing


BOOSTED IMMUNITY


We understand as Mitchel Thomashow writes in “To Know the World”


“Under the best circumstances, a truly reciprocal encounter yields generosity. Reciprocity implies exchange. Generosity implies gratitude, kindness and compassion. It encourages empathy, dialogue, connectedness and love – the giving of yourself to others. Reciprocity is the sharing of perspectives and ideas. Generosity is sharing what is most precious to you and doing so with no exchange in mind. It is a gift of kindness and love.”

kids at waterfall in Cherry Creek doing unstructured nature play to demonstrate outdoor nature based preschool and triple well being and ecological identity to boost our immunity

In only the first 3 months of school we have already seen this in our cohort of mixed age 3-6 year olds. They are practicing this deeper level of kindness and love that goes beyond compliance or exchange and dives deep into “perceptual reciprocity”. The care they show for each other even in escalated conflict resolution and the passion they show for creating a grasslands seed bank of 15 diverse species and re-seeding areas we have impacted is exceptional.


Brining these experiences home could begin your own family journey to improved health and an ecological identity.



Without using too many advanced terms these young humans are embodying the Triple WellBeing® approach and have begun their journey of combining three core skills of Thinking, Feeling and Connecting with three core practices of Self-care, People-care and Earth-care.


We invite you to explore this as and adult and share with us your reflections on “perceptual reciprocity” and your own ecological identity.


  • Which "Wild Name" of the ShortGrass Prairie are you living into and trying to communicate with? (Click on the link above for a printable PDF of names and stories of the short grass prairie)

coopers hawk wild names card to demonstrate outdoor nature based preschool and triple well being and ecological identity to boost our immunity

coopers hawk wild names story to demonstrate outdoor nature based preschool and triple well being and ecological identity to boost our immunity

  • What is that being telling you?

  • How would that more than being share, grieve and act in a Council of All Beings?


Stay tuned to our blog posts for adult learning workshops both online and in person in 2024 as well as Part 2 of 2 of Diversity EQUALS Health.


Our blog posts are written for a diverse audience of families, guardians, parents, practitioners, graduate students and other adults with topics covering a “Tangled Bank” (one of Darwin’s most enduring metaphors) of interests, initiatives, and networks that emphasize the concept that Early Childhood is “Not just cute, but powerful and incredibly important”. When we explore the perception, observation, interpretation and reciprocity of senses from childrens’ and non humans’ perspective we not only support healthy and holistic child development, we also benefit from new knowledge and understanding as adults.


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