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New preschool will swap stuffy classrooms for the great outdoors

A new preschool plans to broaden the horizons of its students when it opens in September — by holding lessons in the great outdoors.

Instead of stuffy classrooms and blank walls, youngsters attending the Building Blocks Indoor and Outdoor Experience will sit in wide open spaces and take classes that are inspired by nature.

The new school — believed to be the first of its kind in Bermuda — will be located on Lightbourne Lane in Smith’s and will accommodate up to 60 students between the ages of 18 months and five years. The site is currently home to the Montessori Preparatory School, which is closing at the end of this month after 15 years.

School owner McCartney Darrell said that, on learning of Montessori’s closure, she contacted its owner to see if they wanted to go into partnership.

But when that offer was declined, she realised that the venue was the perfect spot to offer a new kind of teaching.

Ms Darrell, who already runs the Building Blocks Performing Arts Academy on North Street in Hamilton, said the expansion will give parents who think “outside the box” an alternative to standardised teaching methods for their children — weather permitting.

“When the weather is nice — which it thankfully often is in Bermuda — then we will have permanent outdoor classrooms in different areas of the grounds,” Ms Darrell said.

“There will be a huge whiteboard and sheets on the ground and, before each lesson, the children will take a nature walk and pick things up. The teacher will then utilise these natural objects to teach basic lessons to teach things like the alphabet and colours and so on.

“There will also be a workshop set up outside and a stage and also a racetrack where the children can ride their trikes. The whole idea is to get them learning out in the fresh air.

“We will still have classrooms indoors but the location is phenomenal for outside teaching. It will be curriculum-based and there is a focus on academics, but the children will be moving around a lot and spending much of their time outside.”

Ms Darrell said the Indoor Outdoor concept was first developed in Australia and has produced excellent results.

“Retention levels have been found to be 75 percent higher in students who have been taught this way,” she said, adding that students are far more advanced by the time they start primary school.

And she said it will demonstrate to children at an early age that there is more to life than technology and computers and television. Instead, students will take part in scavenger hunts, go on nature rambles and learn about gardening.

“We do use technology in our classes but we will be rotating the children around all the time,” Ms Darrell said.

“The reason for this is that, when children sit in stagnant environments for long periods of time, their minds become stale. We’ll be keeping them moving and keeping them stimulated, because when they’re stimulated and interested, they tend to grasp more.”

Ms Darrell said that she had received positive feedback from interested parents, but there are still vacancies for parents looking to enrol their children in September.

For further information go to info@buildingblocks.bm

McCartney Darrell: Owner of new school

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Published June 12, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated June 12, 2013 at 12:14 am)

New preschool will swap stuffy classrooms for the great outdoors

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