A few weeks ago, in the beautiful state of New Hampshire, we had our fall TimberNook training. We had providers come as far as Ohio, Florida, and even New Zealand to train with us for a week. It was truly inspiring to see the amazing individuals that are stepping forward to become part of this unique movement and create much-needed change in the lives of children everywhere.
One of our very first providers, Growing Places, a local non-profit childcare organization, also got to experience the magic of this week as well. They've had such great success with their TimberNook programming this past year, that they are training their fourth provider!
Cellissa Hoyt, the director of Growing Places did a presentation for the trainees on TimberNook and how it has changed their organization as a whole. As Cellissa showed pictures of the children in the woods and talked about the experiences the staff had during their first weeks of camp -- it was emotionally charged. She had to stop and wipe tears away from her face at one point. "You won't understand the type of impact this has on children until you see it for yourself. It is quite amazing," she states.
I knew then, that Cellissa and her team of TimberNook providers had something very important to share.
The following is a note from Cellissa:
This past summer we ran our first TimberNook programs and are captivated in every way - perhaps even more than expected. In fact, every one of our staff members that worked at TimberNook this past summer used the same word to describe it, “magical.”
Becoming a TimberNook provider was such a natural and obvious choice for us at Growing Places, because we have so many of the same core values. Growing Places is a preschool and childcare agency dedicated to providing creative play and open-ended opportunities for children. We know children need extended periods of time outside every single day, rain or shine. TimberNook reminded us that we could go even further to ensure that children have opportunities to dive deep into meaningful play experiences, which lays the groundwork for essential life skills.
We got overwhelming positive feedback from both our staff members and the parents themselves. Here are some of their comments:
“The amount of creativity, problem-solving, peer-conflict resolution, communication, movement, risk-taking, fun, peace, and wonder that we observed in the woods is hard to share with words. I saw children grow more in one week than we often see over the course of months!” – Growing Places Staff Member
“Something happens outside without walls and more space, that leads to many wonderful things. Adults are able to step back more, empowering children to problem-solve on their own and with peers--rather than turning to an adult for every answer...
Children played and interacted more peacefully. They felt a sense of trust from the adults, as they were able to spread out and choose where they wanted to be in the woods--without feeling, ‘fenced in.’ Children took risks, made decisions and problem-solved without the constant assistance from adults, which helped them gain more confidence.” – Growing Places Staff Member
“My child was very calm, relaxed and balanced after spending a day in the woods at TimberNook.” – TimberNook Parent
“Children appeared to be less agitated and impatient than usual. If there was a conflict, it did not get as much attention as it sometimes does in a classroom setting. It seemed to dissipate into the woods. – Growing Places Staff Member
"Children with challenges (i.e., speech, language, sensory, emotional, etc.) were naturally included into the teamwork and play experiences at camp. Successful inclusion of all children appeared effortless when we were immersed in nature. A few children who typically have extra challenges had an extremely successful, productive, and positive week at camp.” – Growing Places Staff Member
Many of us have worked at Growing Places for years - decades even. Even with our vast experience, TimberNook has impacted us deeply. Due to our training with TimberNook, we started changing our classroom environments to inspire more creativity and independent play in children. For instance, we changed children’s daily routines in order to offer longer periods of free play throughout the day.
We also removed most of the plastic toys and equipment both in and outside the classrooms, and instead replaced them with “real” dishes and items to inspire creative play. We’ve also started to incorporate more opportunities for healthy risk-taking.
One long-term teacher stated, “Now, I want to encourage age-appropriate risk-taking so children become more physically and socially capable. There are so many opportunities for learning and in my role as teacher, I need to remember to step back and allow children the time to figure out life’s challenges; such as, how to communicate with peers effectively or how to independently climb a tree.”
Our mission at Growing Places is to foster the development of the whole child. We recognize the responsibility and the opportunity we have to help lay a strong foundation for each child’s future success. As a TimberNook provider, we have found one more way to help children thrive, develop a love of learning, and to realize that they can accomplish anything they set their mind to.