top of page
MNPS_AdventuresInTheForest_Logo2_edited_

Miami Nature PLAYschool
Parent Handbook

MISSION STATEMENT

Miami Nature PLAYschool intends to provide nature immersion programs to foster physical , emotional and mental balance through an authentic connection with the natural world. Nature immersion is defined as,

 

“unstructured free time in nature resulting in an intimate, deep and personal connection to the natural world.”

Our goal is to increase awareness of, and connection to the natural world in order to foster compassion and empathy for the earth and all its inhabitants. We encourage learners to engage all their senses and increase their observational skills through commitment to child-driven flow learning, emergent curriculum, and an inquiry-based learning style. The flow of learning is interest-led and determined by the natural rhythms of the seasons. The learning process emerges organically with no overlying structure, schedule or agenda.


Part of our mission is to engage in careful note-taking diary to record each year’s plant growth, and animal and insect activity, to contribute to a database for future communities of learners. It is our goal to reach communities who do not have access to this type of experience, such as people who live in urban environments, as well as those who have a predisposition towards nature.                                                                                                                 

         "If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, then let us allow them to love the

          earth before we ask them to save it.”

                                                                                                                                                  - David Sobel


 

Adventures in the Forest PLAYcamp, provides an entirely outdoor education program that is distinguished by its commitment to:

  • 100% outdoor long-term nature immersion.

  • Sinergy and collaboration between the family and the program.

  • Community based.

  • Learning process based in Interest-led, emergent and inquiry-based approach.

  • Risky Play engagement.

  • Emphasis on authentic, raw, unstructured play.

Our program is designed to integrate children with nature and engage them in quality outdoor activities that stimulate their innate curiosity about the natural world.

Our mentoring style encourages children to learn through direct experience with nature.

Friedrich Frobel, a German educator, opened the world’s first outdoor kindergarten, more than 150 years ago with the belief that young children should play in nature, away from an emphasis on too many numbers and letters. Today, Germany has more than 2,000 of these Waldkindergartens, or “Forest Kindergartens” in which children spend their entire class time outdoors year-round.

KEY PRINCIPLES

Several key principles distinguish Miami Nature PLAYschool Nature-Based Early Childhood Education Model from regular preschools and other outdoor programs:

 

Total commitment to nature immersion regardless of the weather or season.

Nature immersion is defined by Erin Kenny as:

"unstructured free time in nature, resulting in an intimate, deep and personal connection to the natural world.”

Extended and uninterrupted nature immersion provides experience and connection with the rhythms of nature, allowing children to find their own rhythms when spending a long time outdoors. Nature immersion leads to a suspension of linear time and a sense of timelessness in our hurried lives, which is necessary for creating bonds to place, self and living beings within the space. Close contact with nature contributes to young children's motor, sensory, social, emotional, moral and cognitive development, as well as a child's physical health and mental wellbeing.

*Interest-led (child-driven) Flow Learning
When children become interested and excited about something, their sense of wonder leads to hunger for knowledge about that subject. Children also retain more information when it is dispensed at that moment their curiosity is piqued. Deep learning takes place when children are engaged in something that interests them and that is relevant to them.

Read the Article: Child Led Vs Structured Learning


*Waldorf and Montessori-inspired Emergent Curriculum
Mentors have knowledge, skills and abilities that they draw on to guide children based on what nature presents each day. Many teachable moments arise spontaneously, based on the weather, the season, and our daily nature discoveries. When children's interests guide their education, the curriculum arises naturally. Documenting this learning is important, as children are actively involved in recording their recollections, interests and discoveries.

Read the Article: Waldorf and Forest Kindergartens

*Place-based Education in a Permanent Location
We experience and learn about the natural world in the geographical location where we live. This helps children connect with and care for their own home environment. A permanent location enables children to witness seasonal changes and human foot print impact to their specific landscape. Young children's sense of place and belonging stem from their direct interactions with their immediate

Community: the people, places, flora and fauna around them. They feel rooted, connected and involved—leading to caring for their own home environment. Intimate knowledge of a place develops responsibility and desire to protect that place. Environmental stewardship at a later age flows from early personal bonding and experience with a place. In natural settings, children develop a sense of emotional security and learn that there are specific places in nature where they feel comfort and can calm themselves.


Read the Article: Placed Based Education

*Inquiry-based Teaching Style
Asking open-ended questions. Questions for which there are really no wrong answers—elicits rich conversation. As children embark on their own explorations and are encouraged to express their own ideas, they learn to trust their observations and discover there is more than one answer to any question. This strategy leads to more divergent thinking and greater problem-solving skills.


Read the Article: Inquiry Based Teaching Style

*Positive Reinforcement Approach
We want to encourage positive behavior rather than highlight misbehavior. Young children tend to gravitate towards activities that get them attention and reprimanding a child often encourages the continuation of poor behavior. (For many children, negative attention is better than no attention.) Children feel self-pride when they are noticed and complimented for qualities such as helpfulness, generosity and kindness.

Read the Article: Positive Reinforcement for Children.


*Emphasis on Individual Empowerment and Group Bonding
We want our children to recognize both their own worth and abilities and those of others. Competition is prevalent in our world, pitting us against each other. The Forest Kindergarten model values cooperation and teamwork—the sense we can accomplish more when we work together. We also want children to develop the ability to be comfortable on their own.

Furthermore, we respect that some children need time to develop their own understanding and may wish to work by themselves.

Read the Article: A better way to teach our children?

*Respect for Others, Self, and the Living Earth
Living harmoniously with others makes for a more peaceful world. Treating ourselves with gentle kindness and respect flows outward and results in the ability for higher compassion towards others. Seeing ourselves as an integral part of the natural world leads us to want to protect and preserve all aspects of it.

Read the Article: Slowing down and Connecting…


*Authentic Play
Recent research shows young children learn best through direct hands-on experience and through play, music and art. All of these stimulate imagination and creativity.

Read the article: Adult Role in Child Play

*Exposure to Moderate Risk
Children exposed to moderate risk are encouraged to develop their own risk assessment and response skills. This results in fewer injuries. Children learn how to fall and pick themselves back up, and develop self-confidence by facing challenges successfully.

Read the article: Benefits of Risky Play

Life Skills Gained at the Program:
Social skills, conflict resolution, negotiation, body awareness, respect, instilled kindness, compassion, empathy, emotional balance and risk assessment.

Kindergarten Readiness Skills Developed in the Programs:
Problem-solving, critical thinking, divergent thinking, excitement about learning, desire to learn, creativity, imagination, willingness to take risks, peer communication, emotional resilience, low frustration level and high perseverance, cooperation and teamwork.


Specific Natural Science Subjects Studied in the Forest Kindergarten Approach:

Forest ecosystems, biology, botany, ethnobotany, etymology, ornithology, zoology, math, engineering.


ETHOS - PHILOSOPHY AND APPROACH

Etymology of Ethos: Ethos refers to the character, credibility, and moral values a group or individual possesses. It is a Greek word that refers to the character of a person or group.

At Miami Nature PLAYschool we believe that children, especially those between the ages of 3 to 8, learn best through direct experience with the natural world. Our goal is to tap into their sense of wonder about nature while teaching basic environmental and natural science principles. We promote individual empowerment and group bonding.


Respect for all living beings and how to minimize our impact on the earth are role modeled by the Mentors.  The learning process flow organically from what nature presents us with each day.


In the Forest Kindergarten approach, Mentors further support playful learning by:

  • Exposing children to new ideas and information.

  • Asking open-ended questions to spark children’s thinking.

  • Offering children freedom to explore their interests and to make their own choices.

  • Encouraging children accountability of their own actions. 

  • Providing inspiration but letting go of the outcome.

  • Redirecting behavior without judgment.

Key Words in our program are:

· Forest Kindergarten - School
· Place-Based Education
· Conscious Discipline
· Critical Thinking

· Outdoor Classroom

· All weather
· Life Skills
· Freedom &

· Accountability

MENTORS

At Miami Nature PLAYschool, the team of Mentors are conformed mostly by experienced parents who became and participated as part of the community with their own children before deciding to leave their main proffesion to become Mentors who believes in the impact of nature and unstructured play in a healthy Social and Emotional development of the children.


All the Miami Nature PLAYschool Instructors have passed a criminal background check, hold a Pediatric CPR Certificates and practice Conscious Discipline. Mentor-Learner ratio is 1:5.


Please follow this link to our website to meet our team of Mentors and Facilitators: MNP TEAM

COMMITMENT TO YOUR CHILD'S PHYSICAL SAFETY AND EMOTIONAL WELL-BEING

As naturalists, we are committed to inspiring respect for the Earth and all of its creatures. This includes modeling and fostering respect for self and for others at all the times.

  • We shun competitiveness in favor of cooperative activities, guiding children into co-creative adventures.

  • We have a zero-tolerance policy for hitting, grabbing, pushing, name-calling, aggressiveness or any other demeaning behavior.

  • We empower children to learn how to work with others while simultaneously enhancing their individuality. We will speak respectfully to your child and model appropriate responses to the range of your child's emotions.

  • We will hold and carry your child if it is necessary for their feeling of safety.

  • If your child ever reports any type of negative experience at our program, we ask that you please bring it to our Lead Mentor and/or our Program Director’s attention.

  • We will all communicate and work as a team to support your child's concerns and/or feelings.


MONITORING CHILDREN’S BASIC COMFORT NEEDS

 

Remember that this is an entirely outdoor program. Make sure that you and your child are both okay with that.


Clothing
Your child may not experience heat or cold in the same way that you do, resist overdressing him/her. Dressing your child appropriately is CRITICAL to the success of our child enjoying the program.
We adhere to the motto:

"There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing choices.”

Here are a few simple guidelines for clothing:

Please label your children's clothing (Including shoes) . If you don't wish to permanently mark the clothing, you can tie a colored ribbon to the clothing and write the name on it. It’s better to send your child to our program dressed in old clothing.

  • All children are required to come dressed for the weather and for messy play. We recommend clothes with elastic waistbands—no zippers, snaps, belts or suspenders as these greatly complicate bathroom time outdoors.  

  • Jackets must be waterproof to keep children dry during a heavy rain. Rain-pants or rain boots aren’t necessary due our tropical weather.

  • The ideal way to keep a child comfortable during a very rare cold and windy day, as s/he romps through nature, is to dress them in layers. Layers should be loose-fitting to trap heat easily.

  • Provide one full set of extra clothing in a labeled Ziploc bag—this can be thrift store gear—to be always in the backpack. Shoes must be without laces (to foster independence), waterproof and/or quick-drying. (Crocs are good.)


Supplies needed:

We ask parents to donate the following supplies to be used by your children during the PLAYschool year:

2 small / 1 large insect repellent
1 boxes of reusable 2gal Ziploc-type bags or 2 dozen recycled plastic grocery bags to use to return wet clothes, discard garbage and bowel movements.
4 small packs of 150ct antibacterial wipes
2 medium size gentle hand soap
1 small size hand sanitizer

2 small / 1 large sun block
4 rolls of paper towel
2 rolls of toilet paper

2 1" masking tape (better if colored)

2 white paste glue 

1 box of crayons

one mindful book you would like for us to have on our library

LABELED WITH YOUR CHILD NAME (To be keept in the backpack)

  • A vegetable peeler: the kind the head is fixed to the handle

  • A Jumbo magnifier / tongs

  • A small journey for your child to record a meaninful discovery.

  • Provide a lunch box you are sure your child can open and close by itself (we recommend planet box or similar).

  • A small backpack to carry extra clothes, and a reusable labeled metal/plastic water bottle. 

  • If you want for your child to use a specific brand of repellent and/or sunblock please let know the Team Leader of its community and send the products in its backpack labeled with his name. 

Most importantly: 

keep a positive attitude about blustery cold rainy days as some of the most fun days can have been in this type of weather.

Our goal is to keep children comfortable so they can thoroughly enjoy the experience of playing in and exploring the natural environment.


Hunger/Thirst
Parents are encouraged to feed their children an adequate breakfast since outdoor time can increase appetite and thirst. We often remind children to drink water to keep their bodies well-hydrated. We do not have a scheduled time for snack, although we encourage children to identify their own body needs for nourishment. Fruity Friday, water time or special occasions are the only time we insist the children all come together as a group to share food or rehydrate.  

At times, a snack fills some emotional need or a need for down time. However, we don't want food to become overly relied on for comfort and security, and find alternate ways to engage a child needing that extra something.

Snack

  • Please try to not send wheat, dairy, canned fish or any refined sugar, artificial colors or flavors.

  • If your child has food allergies, please let us know to warn other families about prohibited allergens.


Toilet proficiency
Although we can handle occasional accidents, all children must be mostly toilet-proficient in order to attend our program. Children must be able to know when they have to go to the bathroom and be able to communicate that. Many children choose to pee outdoors in a designated place. However, we also have a portable toilet. We regularly prompt the children to check in with themselves about whether they have a need to go potty. We allow exceptions for younger toddlers ready to participate in the program but who are not ready to use the potty.Children needs to be prepare to use a portable toilet in the forest, for the group of children safety, Mentors can't leave the campsite to walk a child to a restroom even if it is close by, before joining the program be sure you and your child are comfortable with.

PRACTICAL SKILLS

APPROACH CONTENT
 

The Forest Kindergarten Approach allows the inclusion of subjects such as nature, science, art, literature, math and more. These are brought in an organic way. The activities and learning opportunities born at the site will be consistent with the young child’s dreamy, playful approach to life. Nature offers opportunities for creative and imaginative play, activities for manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination that allow the intelligence of the child to penetrate the fingers, and practice in developing language art and social skills.

The following are some additional points that help clarify learning in our program:

  • Children learn through visual, auditory, and kinesthetic means.

  • Children also learn by observing; therefore, Mentors and parents are conscious models of behavior for the children.

  • Every child has an inner timetable for growth and therefore his/her patterns and ways will be respected

  • We recognize the advantages of a mixed-age classroom in which, through play, the children help one another to grow and learn intellectually and emotionally.


Our learning environment is optimized when the mentor, parents and children are partners. This partnership
emerges when the roles of mentor and participant become interchangeable. In other words, taking a pause to notice what a child has to teach is equally as important as what the adults present to the children.

Mentors at the program and parents at home create an atmosphere where children discover meaningful and functional learning.

Daily Rhythm 
At the program, children create their own routine for the morning and can include:

  • Circle Time (9:30a.m.)

  • Free Play

  • Nature Walks

  • Climbing Trees

  • Sand - Water Play 

  • Mud - Sand Kitchen

  • Forest Diary

  • Story Time

  • Goodbye Circle (12:30p.m.)


What not to send

  • Glass water bottles or any breakable articles.

  • Toys or other "valuable" artifacts for you or your child.

COMMUNICATING WITH THE COMMUNITY

Communications with the community are made via chat, MNP uses WhatsApp for all relevant communications with families related to the program. We ask families to respect the privacy of the group as well as not to share information related to the sale or offering of services unless it is their own business and also not to abuse the opportunity. Likewise, if it is a personal issue that concerns only your family as well as specific questions or doubts, we would appreciate it if you communicate directly via private message with your Team Leader, if he/she considers that it is a subject that may be of interest. for the community, we ourselves will be forwarding our response to the community and / or answering it in the chat directly.

We understand that you may not want to use the application chosen by us for personal reasons, even for which you have the right to withdraw and not participate in the chat under your own responsibility since you will not receive messages, notifications or sensitive information. MNP and its mentors are not responsible for forwarding this information using another way and we want to ask in advance for your understanding.

COMMUNICATING WITH MENTORS
If you need to communicate future plans concerning your child such as absences, late arrivals, vacations, medical information, or family situations, please do so by emailing our office through Contact@MiamiNaturePlayschool.Com or sending a private message to the team leader.   

If you need to convey time-sensitive information, such as an imminent absence or late arrival, please send a text to the chat group with the details. Please do not convey logistical information verbally to the Mentors during the program. Because our attention is focused on the children, we may forget, a text is better.


Personal toys and other valuable artifacts in the program

  • Please have your child keep his /her own toys at home or the car, this is needed for the mentors to be able to put in practice the conscious discipline approach in a fair way with all the children in the community.

  • Mentors don't will be responsible for lost or damaged toys or artifacts, being in an open space our job is to keep the community safe, mentors can't leave their post to look for lost objects in the forest and or intervene if the children are using the object the wrong way and/or getting muddy or dirty, parents are responsible if they allowed the child bring an object that has an emotional value without considering the possible consequences, same goes for lost objects, we ask parents to be responsible to look for the toy / object at the spaces the community visited during the day with the child. 

We will send dates for the Show and Tell days when children can bring their favorite toy/artifact and share it with the community.


Tardiness, punctuality and attendance

Use the chat to send messages for tardiness or absences. Mentors do not answer calls or texts after 9:30am. Only call if it is an emergency. They are responsible for turning off the sound on their cellphones after 9:30am to focus 100% on the children.


Please notify via email or text if you and your family will be away from the program for multiple days due to family vacations.


SICK CHILD POLICY FOR THE OUTDOOR CLASSROOM
We do not allow children to attend if they have had a fever, diarrhea, or vomiting within the previous 24 hours.

ABSENCE POLICY
 

Sick days:

  • If your child is sick and cannot attend the program, please send a text to the Team Leader. Please do not use the chat after 8:30p.m. or before 7:00a.m. out of respect to the other families rest. If you know in advance that you will miss a day (vacation days, etc.) please send a private message to your child's Community Team Leader or Karina Simon, Program Coordinator to 305 972 3369.

  • Please do not verbally pass information to Mentors at the beginning or the end of the day about upcoming absences or others. It is a important time of the day welcoming the children and they may forget, always a written message or email is better and will allow us to remember your request or need. 

  • Please do not keep busy the Mentors during the Drop off and/or pick up time, their main duty is to keep safe and on their eyesight the group of children, they need to be 100% focusing in observing the children at all the times and a minimal distraction can result in an accident or a conflict we need to address.

  • If you arrive early, avoid mingling with the group of children, a friendly and fast greeting to the other children is always welcome but if an adult stays all the other adults will have the right to do it and it will become a handicap in keeping the children on eyesight for the mentors. Remember we are in a classroom without walls and every corner is the perfect hiding place or escape route for a child in the middle of the adaptation process. 

  • Always be sure to accompany your child until the entrance of the camp. We require that you formally hand over responsibility for your child to our team. Please, don't stay in the parking lot and allow your child to run to the camp. Sometimes the Mentors are focusing on an specific situation and even if you think their view is towards you they can be focusing on an event closer to them, not noticing you or your child. During pick up walk all the way to the site, don't intend for your child to run towards you since that most of the time will incur on the other children (specially the youngest) to run behind your child as a game. 

  • When you drop off or pick up your child, be sure to be hands free (if possible leave the cellphones in the car) and focus on your child and the process. 

  • If you have a baby or a young child that fell asleep in the car and you can't leave it to pick up your child, ask for help from other parents via chat. We appreciate your understanding in advance but the Mentors can't leave their post to walk your child to you.


Extreme weather closure
In case of extreme weather, and during the regular school year, we follow the Miami-Dade School District lead. You can find out whether the MD School District has called for a storm or hurricane warning or a late arrival day by listening to the radio, checking their website http://storms.dadeschools.net/ or by calling the Miami-Dade District office for a recorded message.


If MD schools are cancelled due to extreme weather (local news), our sessions are also cancelled. Sessions can be cancelled also following the closure decision and/or recommendation of the park rangers due to imminent weather. Days missed due to stormy days will NOT be added to the end of the PLAYschool year.

SICK CHILD POLICY FOR THE OUTDOOR CLASSROOM

The best and really only place where your child can be properly nursed through an illness is at home. The classroom is a busy, sometimes noisy place and not the right environment for a sick child.


If your child has a high fever, deep cough, a cold, rash, nausea, diarrhea, stiff neck and headache, hand-foot and mouth disease, difficulty breathing or wheezing, complaints or severe pain, swine flu H1N1 symptoms, unusual yellow color in the skin or eyes, chicken pox or any viral or infectious condition, please do not bring/send him/her back to the program until the child has been symptom free for at least 24 hours. 

If your child develops lice, please stay at home and look for an over the counter treatment or seek for the help of a professional. The child will be able to return to the program after confirming he/she is free of them.

REQUIRED SESSIONS

Families will have to participate at the upcoming required sessions when scheduled:

Conscious Discipline Workshop (Adults only)

Any workshop of Conscious Discipline by Becky Bailey (or other recognized speaker) of 8  hours or more (no pre-recorded or asynchronous) will be valid if sending all the documentation in advance before the beginning of our own workshops. If it can be validated by the Certified representative of Conscious Discipline, it will be approved as a valid to take instead of our workshop.

Dates and hours are included in your Investment Calendar and contract, please reffer to these documents or contact us directly to confirm. 

Rediscovering Ourselves

Online

1 session of 1.30hrs

To be scheduled in different times and dates, invitation will be send via chat.

HOLIDAYS AND BREAKS

Sessions are cancelled in case of Hurricane Warning and are not subject to recovery unless the closing of the space is longer than a week and the program doesn't have an alternative location to move the program until the parks reopen.

Holidays and Breaks to consider during the upcoming 2023 - 2024 PLAYschool Year.

IMG-20190402-WA0032
IMG-20190408-WA0039
IMG-20190402-WA0030
IMG-20190402-WA0048
IMG_20190415_103615778
IMG-20190416-WA0056
IMG-20190410-WA0006
IMG_20190415_102658169
IMG_20190418_105429475
IMG-20190429-WA0024
IMG-20190418-WA0048
IMG-20190418-WA0055
IMG_20190430_113001125
bottom of page