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The Bluestone Philosophy

Put simply, the philosophy of Bluestone Nature Programs is to honor every child’s right to learn in, with, and about nature. We believe that nature is the ideal learning environment for children, and that children will show us what drives their passion for learning when given the chance. 

We create a space where children are celebrated for being unique and exploring their interests while feeling confident that their needs will be met. We believe that children should be given space and time to play, problem-solve, create, and take risks. 

If the term “nature-based learning” is new to  you, you may be wondering - but what and how will my child learn? Nature-Based education is not a new concept, just a term that we’ve coined over the years to describe a wide variety of educational approaches that center time spent in nature. Indigenous communities across the globe are the original practitioners of nature-based learning, but for many it was and is simply their lifestyle and culture. 

As the idea of nature-based learning made its way to the United States, we find more and more research supporting the whole child benefits of learning in the great outdoors. Many Scandinavian and European countries adopted a nature centric approach to learning years ago, and while there are many ways to offer nature-based learning, one core tenant holds true: the emphasis is placed on child-directed learning that values process-based experiences above end products. 


Culture of Cultivation

Bluestone Nature Programs cultivates strong connections to self, each other, and to Mother Earth. We do so by cultivating characteristics, including:
Service & Leadership
Nature Connection & Sense of Place
Playfulness & Wonder
Confidence & Courage
Awareness & Inquiry

Emergent Curriculum

When your classroom is the great outdoors, the seasons and child interest guide exploration, interest, and inquiry. Bluestone Mentors embrace the role of observer and follow the children’s lead, scaffold learning, and build upon their experiences, skills, and knowledge. We provide the space, time, and permission for children to explore and use our knowledge of early childhood education and the natural environment to capture curiosity and wonder. While every day at Bluestone is different, we balance intentional activities and experiences with free, unstructured nature play to mindfully honor each child’s developmental needs. 

Mentorship Practices

The Pennsylvania Key follows a set of early learning standards that highlight development across these domains: approaches to learning through play; language and literacy development; mathematical thinking and expression; scientific thinking and technology; social studies thinking; creative thinking and expression; health, wellness, and physical development; and social and emotional development. The National Association for the Education of Young Children also follows a set of ten standards for early childhood education that inform best practice in teaching practices. 

Bluestone Nature Programs looks at child development through the lens of these excellence standards as well as by nurturing skills and values including environmental literacy and ecological identity; caretaking on the land; development of empathy, gratitude, and kindness; self-help skills; mindfulness; supported risk-taking; independence; self-advocacy and consent; spirituality and gardening. Through this, we also  support whole child health and well-being. 

Our Daily Rhythm

As we follow the interest and needs of the children, each day will look different and time frames of this
rhythm may vary.

9-9:45 a.m.

Arrival with open-ended nature play, invitations for play, small group explorations

9:45-10 a.m.

Welcome circle gathering with gratitude practice and an intentional experience such as storytelling, artifact sharing, tool use, movement, etc.

10-11:30 a.m.

Exploration, child-led play, intentional provocations, hiking (includes time for snack, water, and restroom breaks)

11:30 a.m.-12 p.m.

Closing circle with story of the day and good-bye song, transition to pick-up

Bluestone Nature Programs

Port Jervis, NY

Bluestone Nature Programs plays and learns on the unceded land of our Host Nation peoples, the Munsee Lenape and Mohican. We offer deep condolences to the past, present, and future Indigenous peoples who experienced harm at the hands of colonizers and for the systemic racism they still experience today. We promise to do our best as allies and support our Host Nation and all Indigenous peoples with our actions. We recognize this statement is just the first step and commit ourselves to continue to grow and work towards reparations and healing.

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