Starting Out Wild: A Program that Introduces Toddlers to Nature
Two years ago San Antonio Natural Area Education Coordinator Peggy Spring had a dream of starting an educational program where toddlers love and experience nature in the first years of life. From this grew the Starting Out Wild (SOW) concept. Using the Growing Up WILD (GUW) curriculum as a base, lessons were adapted consistent with the best practices for infant and toddler education and development. From the first trial class, the program was immensely popular, soon expanding from one session a month to as many as four or five, all with waiting lists.
Starting Out Wild programs are offered for children 18 months to 3 years old at Phil Hardberger Park.
The basic format has four segments, including: learning, hiking, craft project and snack. The lessons are highlighted with music and movement and a story on both ends to create a reassuring structure for children and parents. All components are active with substantial nature content reinforced throughout.
The SOW program is based on these principles:
- The love of nature needs to accompany growing up from the earliest age.
- Teaching must engage both children and parents.
- Learning will spiral, moving from tolerating and participating, to acquiring nature concepts and vocabulary over the three year span.
- Activities should facilitate children’s experiences through movement and using all their senses.
- Familiar analogs of unfamiliar concepts and vocabulary are provided.
- Providing an emotionally comfortable environment is the starting point.
Each session begins with a gathering of 15 toddlers and their parents sitting on a brightly colored carpet. Finger-play activities, songs, learning through familiar analogs and a short story are included. A guided learning walk, craft and nutritional snack follows. Class ends with a reprise of earlier song and stories, the Goodbye-Song and sitting in the circle of friendship. Parents receive handouts reinforcing what has been taught.
Sign your child up for Starting Out Wild