Imagine your kids coming home to tell you stories of seeing cougars, coyotes, and bobcats at school. Come September, that won't seem so far-fetched.
The Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, Green Bay Area Public School District, and UW-Green Bay are teaming up for a first in the Midwest.
Starting this fall, kids in the new, nature-based 4K program will attend school outdoors every day, learning from Mother Nature.
"They'll dress for the weather -- rain, shine, snow -- and they'll explore our property while they're getting ready for kindergarten," sanctuary director Mike Reed said.
Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary in Green Bay will be the four-year-olds' classroom.
This week, city leaders approved Reed's idea to turn nature into teacher.
"So many kids now are spending the majority of their time... study after study is showing they're spending the majority of their time indoors -- in front of TVs, with computers -- and they're really losing that connection to nature," Reed said.
Under the supervision of a licensed teacher, student teachers from UWGB and a naturalist -- an outdoor expert -- the kids will spend each day exploring the grounds, learning a state-certified, structured curriculum.
"The teacher and the naturalist will work together and say, OK, we're looking at tracks and what academic... should we be doing shapes?"
Reed says this is Wisconsin's only free nature-based 4K and will be open to students in Green Bay and surrounding communities with 4K programs.
Classes will follow the school calendar and are first-come, first-serve to the first 40 students enrolled.
Sue Foster, a grandmother, said, "I think it would be great. I would love to get her in it."
"They have to be engaged and active and doing something to learn, so I think it'll be a really nice program. I'm hoping to be able to get her into the list for the 4K," April Verstoppen, a mother, said.
Reed said, "We've gotten a number of calls. The Green Bay Area School District is getting three to five inquiries a day regarding the program."
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