Reggio-Emilia Archives | Ashley Hall

Over the last year, Early Education Center (EEC) teachers have noticed their student’s love of natural spaces and found objects here on campus. Last spring, faculty began discussing ways to document the children’s responses to nature and the Nature Retreat Project was born. The project was inspired by the faculty’s summer reading of the book Last Child in the Woods coupled with an on-site visit to the Laurel School in Northeast Ohio which offers a similar program as part of its nationally recognized preschool program.

Under the skillful direction of pre-kindergarten teacher Dana Molony, the search for the perfect Nature Retreat location began in early October. Wendy Robbins, the EEC atelierista, quickly joined the initiative to weave in Reggio-Emilia elements that would further support the program’s development. After a visit to Ashley Hall’s John’s Island property that features the school’s Sports Complex, it was immediately clear that it was the perfect place for this magical experience. Ms. Molony and Mrs. Robbins carefully prepared the property for exploration by creating paths in the forested areas surrounding the sports complex while teachers helped build excitement for each class’ upcoming immersion week.

During the month of November, each of the three Pre-Kindergarten classes traveled every day for a week to Johns Island by bus to take part in the Retreat. Following Reggio practice, the children served as “guides” as the group explored the wooded area. Students paused to examine everything from spider webs and fallen trees, to animal burrows and beetles. By visiting the same site day after day, the children were able to observe changes to the environment and build a lasting relationship with nature.

Not only was this an incredible learning experience for both the EEC children and teachers, but it also provided a cross divisional connection with the Upper School Science Department. Teachers from the Upper School science department joined the Retreat on select days to explore future collaboration opportunities which embrace the school’s Learning Spiral teaching philosophy.

Upper School Science faculty member, Allison Bowden, reflects on her EEC Nature Retreat experience:

Witches Broom and Wheel Bugs

Small hands pull a sweet gum near
I’ve never seen a purple leaf.
Flattened fingers become a cricket’s runway
I’ve never held a bug.
He reaches for a dried mat of grass
I think it’s in the duckweed family.
Dirt covered hand pinches a red berry tightly
It’s food for winter animals.
She holds a vine with twisting tendrils
They are double springs.

The Ashley Hall Bee Program continues to buzz. Begun four years ago with one Bee Cause observation hive installed in the Pardue Hall Science Lab, the Bee Program now expands through the Upper School curriculum with rooftop Langstroth hives (a wood hive built in a frame for easy bee and honey removal) being explored daily by students of all ages. It is a signature component of Ashley Hall’s science program giving the girls a “hands on” experiential learning opportunity to connect with the natural world and understand the bee’s critical impact on the ecosystem.

With a desire to start the program with the younger children, Ms. Flowers and the Lower School Bee Club took the helm, and a new Bee Cause hive was recently installed in the Ross Early Education Center. “This is a terrific Reggio Emilia tool,” shares Early Education Center Director Dana VanHook, “and the Lower School girls taking the initiative on installation made the opportunity perfect. The younger children are thrilled to now have a hive to explore and respond to.” Now to share some bee hive love with the Intermediate Program…stay tuned girls!

Students from Ashley Hall’s Early Education Center and first grade have been exploring building and construction. The students have been practicing making 2-D sketches and bringing them to life in the classroom. In collaboration with this study, the students were able to visit the Medical University of South Carolina’s construction site for the new Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital. This was such a wonderful way for the students to understand the different steps that happen in the construction process. They were also able to meet many different local professionals and were able to observe many of the equipment tools at work.

Ashley Hall’s Early Education Center students are exposed to French daily through a communicative approach. Instructor, Madame Dardar, captures one-on-one videos throughout the year of the young students’ progress. In this brief video, you will see three year old Maisie Callahan and her mastery of French basics such as greetings, gender differentiation (boy versus girl), and identification of parts of the face. Très bien, Maisie! Click here to watch the video.

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Ashley Hall is a K-12 independent school for girls, with a co-ed preschool, committed to a talented and diverse student population. We consider for admission students of any race, color, religion, and national or ethnic origin.