When Parents and Children Learn Together in Nature, You Get Teva Means Nature - an Innovative Preschool Program
These days, during the Coronavirus Pandemic, we all appreciate the outdoors more. In particular, we welcome the chance it gives us to gather safely.
At Akiba-Schechter, we have made good use of our outdoor spaces (two playgrounds, a courtyard, and the park across the street) for gym class (such as playing soccer), eating lunch on the lawn, or playing at recess. If the weather is particularly nice, we'll even hold a class outside.
Akiba-Schechter's preschool, however, has taken outdoor school to a whole new level.
Our Teva Means Nature program meets only outside. Taught by Early Childhood Director Carla Goldberg, preschool teacher Becky Rubin, nature educator Naomi Cobb, and preschool teacher and master naturalist Susan Carton, Teva Means Nature is offered in two sessions. Meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, or Thursday and Friday mornings, it is open to children ages 0-6 who attend with a parent or caregiver. Currently, twelve to thirteen families are enrolled in each group.
The idea of nature and the world as the classroom, functioning as the "third teacher," has always been a big part of the preschool's approach. Classroom environments are set up to bring in nature.
Now, the outside has become the classroom.
Carla Goldberg and her team conceived of Teva Means Nature over the summer after she spoke to every preschool family that had been enrolled at Akiba-Schechter.
"Many families were not comfortable sending their child back to school in the fall, at least not in the same way that they had pre-Covid. But they clearly yearned to maintain their connection with Akiba, and we wanted to continue our relationship with these families. Just as we were able to pivot in March when we needed to take preschool online, and just as we offered a virtual summer program,
we decided to develop a program that would serve these children and their families who weren't ready to go back to school in person."
Parents echo that sentiment. "Akiba created a new curriculum just for us. It feels like such a gift and makes us feel committed to the school," comments Arielle Hirschfeld, who attends with her two children, 4 1/2 and 1 1/2 years old. As a physician who works with Covid patients, she feels it would be too risky for her children to be at school, in the classroom. Her older child was also resistant to online school. "This is the one way we can have school. It feels good to 'go to school' and have this structured time to focus on the kids. It's relaxing and enriching for me, too."