Westbrook’s curriculum is based on daily, direct encounters with all that is living in the natural world: animals, plants, water, sun, rain, and wind. Our curriculum aims to foster a child’s intimate relationship with nature, which will inspire wonder and support the child’s expanding sense of self.
Nature mirrors the same dynamic, transformative forces that are at play in the child. Its complexity provides the most developmentally rich environment possible for the education of the whole child. At Westbrook, we focus on four fundamental motivations within the child that must be recognized and nourished for healthy development. These are:
Balance: Finding acceptance in the group to feel secure, and to attain a level of stability and calm.
Resilience: The desire to cope with challenges in order to function optimally in one’s environment. These adaptations include self-regulation, development of skills, self-sufficiency, and prediction of outcomes.
Self-Enrichment: Engaging with the world in ways that directly result in joy, happiness, pleasure, and invigoration. This is where the child asks “Why?” This search for knowledge begins with wonder.
Social Growth: This differs from the previous motivations in that it leads the child to engage the world in ways that supersede self-interest, doing things such as “helping, comforting, sharing and cooperating” because these things are important in their own right.
Our curriculum is designed to meet these motivations in the child through embodied relationship with the natural world to overcome aversion in the quest to discover, to fill the senses with living textures, sounds, colors, scents, and to come to an appreciation for “ideal beauty in nature” that can inspire a sense of wonder, awe, and gratitude. Nature has the capacity to calm, to enhance one’s ability to cope with frustrations and difficulty, to challenge and strengthen the body, and to restore mental and emotional balance.
Cognitively, the dynamic, information-rich qualities of the natural world call upon the child’s natural adaptive tendencies to collect, organize, and classify what they find. Daily encounters with the natural world give the child the opportunity and time to deepen the relationship with nature leading to a gradually more complex understanding of nature’s dynamic qualities and subtle nuances. These encounters also make the child more adaptable to unpredictability, strengthening their ability to self-regulate.