A nature-based kindergarten readiness 4K program at Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary aims to get youngsters in touch with the outdoors while preparing them for kindergarten. Local 5’s Brittany Falkers heads outdoors where these Green Bay students are learning lessons that cannot be taught in a classroom.
The Oak Learning Center Nature-based 4K program is filling up faster than any other 4k program in the Green Bay School District. Take five minutes to talk with the students in the program and it is easy to see why.
The program aims to reclaim kids’ connection to the outdoors.
“They’re on video games. They’re in organized activity, but there’s not the free play that many of us had when we grew up,” Director at Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary Mike Reed said.
The goal is to have the kids outside 60 to 80 percent of the time while preparing them for kindergarten.
“But we count chipmunks and squirrels and eggs,” Reed said. “We expose them to things that many times they don’t get until their upper grade.”
Teacher Amy Milz works alongside naturalists at the sanctuary to educate these youngsters. She sees her students grow into outgoing observers.
“When they’re walking down these trails at the beginning of the year they’re not seeing a whole lot, but by the end of the year they notice every little bee, every little butterfly that goes by,” Milz said. “The conversation and the vocabulary that they’re using by the end of the year is just phenomenal.”
These kinds of nature-based programs can often cost between $2,000 to $5,000 for kids in other parts of the country, according to Reed. However, this program at Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary is tuition free.
Access to every child, no matter their family’s income, was an important part of the program for Reed. It was made possible because of a partnership between the sanctuary, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, and the Green Bay School District.
“They learn here without even realizing they’re learning,” Reed said. “So, they’re very well prepared for kindergarten. They do ask the teacher to go outside more.”
These kids are not only getting the building blocks for kindergarten readiness, they’re also learning to respect nature. That, in turn, is teaching these kids to respect each other.
“I really like to see that respect for nature and each other grow in them and they just have such unique observations of what they see,” Reed said.
There is a waiting list for the Oak Learning Center Nature-based 4-year-old kindergarten. For more information visit their Web site at http://www.baybeachwildlife.com/kindergarten/