A new professional development program available at Lyman Woods, managed by Downers Grove Park District, is helping early childhood educators learn new ways to introduce young students to the natural world around them.
This summer, the Downers Grove Park District’s Manager of Natural Resources and Interpretive Services Shannon Forsythe and Naturalist Marge Trocki were certified as facilitators of the Growing Up WILD Professional Development Workshop. As facilitators, they can instruct local early childhood educators on how to use the new curriculum known as Growing Up WILD, a set of activities, projects and games children can play that also teaches children how to better understand and appreciate the natural world.
“The premise is that there is a ‘disconnect’ between kids and nature,” Forsythe said. “Kids do not have the same relationship with the natural world that we previously have had.”
The curriculum of Growing Up WILD, intended for children ages 3 to 7, is found in Growing Up WILD: Exploring Nature with Young Children, an activity guidebook which is given to educators who attend the workshop. At the workshop, which is about three hours in length, teachers are instructed on how to navigate and use the guide.
The guide contains games, musical activities, art projects and snacks that teachers can use to get students engaged with the natural world. The guide includes helpful biology facts for teachers, giving them the background information and context they need to help students with the activities.
Because Growing Up WILD is all about familiarizing children with the natural world, it preferably is taught in an outdoor, natural setting. However, the program can accommodate circumstances in which this is not an option.
“Ideally, we’d like kids to get out into a natural setting but that’s not always possible in a school yard,” Forsythe said. “... So a lot of these activities are looking for the little things in nature, [like] finding rolly-pollies or any sort of leaf. You have to use what is around you.”
Information Growing Up WILD curriculum is at projectwild.org/GrowingUpWILD.
For questions or to schedule a workshop, call the Interpretive Center at 630-963-9388. Information about natural areas programming is available on the Downers Grove Park District website at dgparks.org.
Brandi Beckley is the external affairs manager and Mitch Reeter is a marketing intern with the Downers Grove Park District