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Starting Out Wild

Two years ago San Antonio Natural Area Education Coordinator Peggy Spring had a dream of starting an educational program where toddlers love and experience nature in the first years of life. We then started the Starting Out Wild (SOW) concept with using the Growing Up WILD (GUW) curriculum as a base, adapting lesson consistent with the best practices for infant and toddler education and development. The basic format has four segments including; learning, hiking, craft project and snack, highlighted with music and movement and a story on both ends to create a reassuring structure for children and parents. All components are active with substantial nature content reinforced throughout. From the first trial class, for toddlers from 1 year olds who are walking to 3 year olds, the program is immensely popular, soon expanding from one session a month to as many as 4-5, all with waiting lists.

Starting Out Wild programs are currently being offered at Phil Hardberger Park and Friedrich Wilderness Park in the San Antonio Natural Areas.

A 24-four unit curriculum also includes additional topics such as bats, cactus, bees and flowers that are appropriate to Texas, but not part of the GUW curriculum.

The SOW program is based on these principles:

1. The love of nature needs to accompany growing up from the earliest age.

2. Teaching must engage both children and parents.

3. Learning will spiral moving from tolerating and participating, to acquiring nature concepts and vocabulary over the 3 year span.

4. Activities should facilitate children’s experiences through movement and using all their senses.

5. Providing familiar analogs of unfamiliar concepts and vocabulary

6. Providing an emotional comfortable environment.

Each session begins with a gathering of 15 toddlers and their parents sitting on a brightly colored carpet. Finger-play activities, songs, learning through familiar analogs and a short story are included. Then a guided learning walk, craft and nutritional snack follows. Class ends with a reprising earlier song and stories, Goodbye-Song and sitting in the circle of friendship, Parents receive handouts reinforcing what is being taught.

The Alamo Area Master Naturalist and Sierra Club would like to invite you to an advanced educational training program on Friday February Feb. 21 from 10:00-11:30am at the Phil Hardberger Park Urban Ecology Center Classroom in San Antonio at 8400 NW Military Hwy. Wendy Drezek who helped to create the SOW program will be facilitating this opportunity which includes field guide resources to lead groups on the trails and an overview of the Starting Out Wild program. Registration is required at Susan.Campbell@sanantonio.gov or for more information call 210-207-3280.