"It's Alive!" : an exploration of young children's perceptions of the natural world
Boileau, Elizabeth Yvonne Shaw
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A pilot program for young children aged three to five years old, River Buddies, developed for the St Lawrence River Institute of Environmental Sciences, was used as a setting for this research project. The program was conducted in order to gain insight into young children’s interest in and experience of the natural world in order to provide direction for appropriate program development for young children. Indoor and outdoor daycare workshops and family programs were offered, with hands-on activities, free play and live animals. Clark’s Mosaic Approach (2001) was the methodology used to gather data including photography, audiorecorded interviews, surveys and observations notes. Findings highlighted the children’s interest in learning through sensory experiences, through play with open-ended materials and the power of connecting with live animals. Adults play an important role in children’s engagement with the natural world. Listening to children and following their interests strengthened the experience for children.