“Nature, which excites all of the senses, remains the richest source of loose parts.”- Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods
Loose parts is a term that refers to the materials children use to build, invent and play. I love this photograph of my son, who is a born scientist, feeling sand run through his fingers. We had just arrived at the beach, and although he played a lot in Texas rivers and streams, this was his first time to feel beach sand. This material soon transformed from sensory experience to construction fodder.
There is a load of evidence that the material found in nature leads to more creative play, longer play sessions, problem solving and more complex language and thinking. And just being outside provides added support for this expansiveness.
Austin Forest School grew out of this research, and the research about need for children to move more, and to take risks in a structured environment. Claire Warden, of Auchlone Nature Kindergarten, one of my new favorite of mentors, talks about ‘pushing the boundaries of exploration’, and it says well what we do at Austin Forest School.