Preparing for the 2020-21 school year at LLS brought with it a process of rethinking each of our policies and preparing for different circumstances than ever before, as we worked to reopen our school during a pandemic. This was a labor of love, adjustment, and resilience. After many professional conversations and workshops with New York officials, health experts, and colleagues, as well as collaboration with the Brooklyn Coalition of Early Childhood Programs, we made the decision to transition to a nature school program.

We spend as much time as possible at Fort Greene Park. Except for days when weather does not permit, we learn together in an outdoor classroom. Early childhood is all about discovering the world around us through exploring and engaging with people and the environment and materials to develop a sense of identity and skills — language, math, science, and relationship skills. Our goal through outdoor learning is to welcome children each day in the most safe environment and give them multiple opportunities to experience socially, emotionally, physically, and cognitively.

We have seen in years past that our many walks to the park provided the children with limitless possibilities for play and learning and that during this time, they built, questioned, and expressed knowledge and meaningful ideas about the world around them. Outdoor learning provides children both the safest space in which to socialize and an inspiring educational environment. When children are in nature, deep learning takes place in the areas of ecology, biology, botany, math, physics, and engineering. Nature is an ideal place for immersing the children in an environment that interests them so that they can take information in and retain it.

At LLS, we know that young children learn best through hands-on discovery and when they are relaxed and having fun. We keep children excited about learning by building on their own discoveries and interests. Nature provides an incredible setting for these experiences. Through their own hands-on explorations and with questions designed to elicit conversation, the children form ideas about the world around them. The care and protection of nature and the environment is a central aspect of these experiences. At the same time, learning extends beyond the exploration of nature, as children form a deeper understanding of our relationship to the natural world as a community. This includes both our classrooms and the greater community we are a part of. As children explore the outdoors, they develop a deeper sense of the way nature impacts our needs. For example, when it is hot and sunny, we become thirsty, and when it is raining, we need shelter. This extends to a sense of how we can better care for our community and think about the needs of others.

We are having such a strong, successful school year and are proud of the ways our program has adapted to these new, unprecedented circumstances.