by Kate Berube
Kids love being outside no matter what the season. No one knows this better than Nora Garvey, the creative force behind Nature Play with Nora, the wildly popular Tinkergarden class hosted in the Blue Point Nature Preserve. An outdoor play-based explorer program available in all 50 states, the Tinkergarden model follows a basic curriculum that is implemented by local teachers, the goal of which is to foster curiosity in nature during early childhood development.
When the current health crisis began, all in-person activities were put on hold. As time, and the pandemic, wore on the focus shifted to how to engage with children about nature while gathering together was still unadvisable. But how to fit a program meant to encourage children to play outside into an online platform? Garvey’s newest class seems to answer that question.
The class runs for 30 minutes, instead of the traditional hour-long in-person session, enough time to introduce a concept and establish play that can be easily carried out after the camera stops. “Circle time acts like a jumping-off point, or invitation to play,” explains Garvey. “It hopefully inspires the children and their caregivers by introducing a theme and idea to play with.” Parents are emailed ahead of time the simple tools their child will need to interact in the class, and then those objects are introduced as instruments for science and learning. Weather permitting, circle time is live-streamed from the preserve, giving kids from all over a window into Garvey’s whimsical world.
Though parents are naturally concerned with the amount of screen time their children are consuming these days, Garvey feels, “Letting kids use it in a time like this to connect with each other and with adults that only want to help them play, learn, and foster a sense of wonder is important for their understanding of life and the world.” She adds, “We are all staying so close to home these days, it’s good to let them know that they do have friends and supporters out in the wide world.”