The Clubhouse Child Care Center has partnered with the Regional District of Central Okanagan to create The Treehouse Forest Preschool, a three year pilot program in Woodhaven Regional Park in Kelowna. photo: contributed

Okanagan children have chance to learn outdoors

The Treehouse Forest Preschool will let kids learn outside full time starting in fall

Another opportunity for young children to connect with the outdoors is coming to the Okanagan.

The Clubhouse Child Care Center has partnered with the Regional District of Central Okanagan to create The Treehouse Forest Preschool, a three year pilot program in Woodhaven Regional Park in Kelowna.

The non-profit organization, started by executive director Caroline Noga in 1996 aims to reconnect children with nature while teaching them useful skills and having fun.

“I have been in childcare for close to 40 years and you can see the trends, children are playing outside less and less,” said Noga.

“They (the kids) are so happy, they love having the extra freedom to roam. It helps them learn to take more risks and build and create things they wouldn’t be able to inside.”

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Noga facilitates several opportunities for kids to get outside and enjoy nature; classrooms can visit on field trips, or youngsters can attend preschool programming.

The weather has never been an issue for the kids says Noga.

“There were two kindergarten groups outside the week before last when it was -15C they were dressed for it, and we went on a nature walk,” she said.

Last year, the RDCO’s board gave approval to parks staff to explore the concept of an outdoor forest preschool at Woodhaven Nature Conservancy Regional Park, as an innovative way of providing child care space in the community.

Each day during the school week, the Clubhouse Child Care Center will host two learning sessions at the Treehouse Forest Preschool. Mornings between 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., childcare facilities and kindergarten classes can schedule a field trip to the Treehouse Forest Preschool. Then between 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m., children registered in the Treehouse Forest Preschool will attend.

Children are able to construct temporary shelters, create woodland art, explore and play in nature. Though the program is based outside they will have access to the log cabin to use the washroom.

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Noga’s daughter, Audrey Hystad works at The Clubhouse Farm as Farm Manager and is passionate about fostering a generation that has a strong connection with the Earth.

“If kids are not given opportunities to connect with the land you can pretty much guarantee they are not going to know how to save it when they grow up into being contributing members of society,” said Hystad.

“There are really more opportunities (outside) for incidental learning, for physical and cognitive development. They also develop their fine motor skills and gross motor skills.

One of the most important things is they develop a sense of wonder for the worlds, and a love for it.”

Park interpreter for RDCO, Nicole Kittmer says that the partnership with the preschool is something they have had on their wish list for a long time.

“We have been trying to find the right time and the right operator to work with,” said Kittmer “This is going to be a learning experience for all of us.”

There will be an information session held March 14 from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m. at Woodhaven Nature Conservancy Regional Park. The first year of the program will begin in fall.

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