On Friday, April 11, families gathered at Abbott’s Mill Nature Center to celebrate Spring as children were provided the opportunity to discover and share nature with their friends. The program, Knee-High Naturalists, initiates young children ages two to five into a life-long meaningful relationship with the natural world in a way that is both playful and developmentally appropriate.
Abbott’s Mill Nature Center, with its preserved, working mill, is owned by Delaware’s Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs and operated by the Delaware Nature Society. Located along Abbott’s Pond just southwest of Milford, the Nature Center manages 313 acres. This diverse nature preserve supports a variety of forested, field and wetland habitats and includes hiking trails, boardwalks and teaching stations that provide educational opportunities for all ages.
Two days a week, families are engaged in the nature-based educational program, Knee-High Naturalist, which provides children with unique opportunities to learn about themselves, the world and their relationship with it. These hands-on self-discovery processes also encourage an intrinsic motivation to learn, standing preschoolers in good stead for their formal education to come.
“The children are so naturally curious at this age and if you expose them to nature early it will stick with them the rest of their lives,” commented Magritte Beale, Instructor of Knee High Naturalists. “This helps to foster environmental ethics and a caring attitude for life.”
Introducing participants to the excitement of Springtime , participants learned about sprouting bulbs, earthworms crawling to the surface and moles tunneling through the soil. Children learned that soil is made up of living organisms that help generate the nutrients that provide for animals and human beings. After reading several books about the importance of soil, participants used their own trowels to search for earthworms, mole tunnels and insects.
“We want them to not be afraid to dig in the dirt, to be curious,” commented Beale. “We want them to realize that soil is very important to our lives, it’s not just dirt but the foundation of our ecosystem.”
Kate McConaghy and her two children, Milo and Ramona, are a part of the Knee-High Naturalists program. They are excited for their weekly adventure at Abbott’s Mill Nature Preserve. As Milo and Romona love the outdoors, Kate has had to adjust her comfort level to keep up with their learning.
“Milo in particular has an affinity for the outdoors,” commented Kate. “I was very interested in growing this experience together in them even after I realized I would be playing with worms in the dirt along with them. This program sparks all kinds of creativity in them.”
The Knee-High Naturalists program continues at the Abbott’s Mill Nature Preserve every week as classes are held on Thursdays and Fridays. Abbott’s Mill Nature Center will continue to host events throughout the year, educating adults and children on the beauty of nature in the Greater Milford Area. To find out more about seasonal events individuals can visit the center at 15411 Abbott’s Pond Road just outside of Milford, online at http://delawarenaturesociety.org/ or by phone at 302-422-0847.