The child’s direct experience with nature is the starting place for all domains of learning in the Westbrook curriculum. Each child takes an active role in his or her education. Daily rhythms provide a structure that answers the child’s need for predictability, while leaving an opening for what emerges between the child, the teacher, and the environment. In this way, a sudden rain, the sound of an approaching wind, or the unfolding of spring leaves can provide spontaneous teaching and learning moments on any given day.
You may recognize some of the educational streams that weave through our curriculum: the work ethic of Montessori, the constructivist quality of Reggio Emilio, and the aesthetic sense of Waldorf. The Westbrook curriculum is designed to incorporate the best aspects of what is current in early childhood education as well as the tried and true. Yet, our curriculum is unique. As stated above, through embodied relationship with the natural world based upon daily encounters with nature, we strive to meet the fundamental four motivations of the child: Balance, Resilience, Self-Enrichment, and Prosocial Behavior.
Westbrook provides opportunities for meaningful work and play in addition to those that unfold in nature: cultivating and caring for the organic garden that provides food for our classroom, building forts out of mud, grass and sticks, scavenger and treasure hunts in woods, creating nature books, playing traditional games, and singing songs that have delighted children for generations are but a few of the experiences we bring to children at Westbrook. Nature experienced through a living curriculum to offer a well-rounded education for the young child while providing authentic physical, emotional, and social development through problem solving, coping, and sharing.
As an Early Childhood Education Center, we fulfill the Connecticut Early Learning and Development Standards. The experiences and materials required to fulfill many of the CTELDS requirements are naturally built into the framework of Westbrook’s nature-based curriculum. Research studies have shown that children in outdoor programs tend to be more advanced in the areas of cognition, physical, social and emotional development, as well as mathematics and science, than those attending typical preschool classrooms. In nature, children have the opportunity to investigate and explore a variety of experiences, engage in creative problem solving with peers, and show an increased willingness to take risks; fulfilling learning requirements across CTELDS domains. Moreover, these standards are met while keeping the child engaged in deeply meaningful work and play.