Life Long Ago

Anin! This day’s learning adventures made it possible for preschool students to travel back to the time of early Native Americans. As the seasons continue, here’s another peek into the nature-based preschool education that is happening through Blandford Nature Center’s collaboration with West Side Christian School.

Related: Nature-based Preschool and Moving a Preschool into the Woods

The day began with time designated to natural-free play.  It was exciting to see how the hike to the forest led to some spontaneous letter recognition.


“I just spotted this stick shaped like a “Y”


“T” is for Turkey

Nature-Play and Early Literacy

The nature-based preschool model allows the students uninterrupted  time for free-play in the nature.   Blandford’s fort area provided the setting for some imaginative play.
This fort became their house.  This pretend play created the fuel for their own narrative. Together they created a story for their fort, and how they worked together to survive.
Research reveals that this play enhances every aspect of the children’s development and learning.


Learning About Life Long Ago

After their free-play time the students curiosity led them to wonder, “How did people survive in forest long ago?” That set the stage for our time-traveling-learning adventure.”What did the people need?” FOOD quickly came to mind – it  was getting close to snack time! Where did their food come from? People found some of their food in the forest and some of their food even walked.  We imagined that it was time to go hunting.  One student chimed in, “We must be very quiet when when we hunt animals.” We walked quietly through the forest in search of animals.


Four hundred years ago the people called Anishinabek were the dominant culture. The People of the Three Fires, Odawa (Ottawa), Ojibwe (Chippewa), and Bodawadami (Potawatami), used the resources of the land here to survive and thrive. Today, with the help of traditional tools, the students used their imaginations to picture the daily life of the Anishinabek a long time ago and find out what they could learn from a culture that has lived in Michigan for hundreds of years.


Free Choice

These young anthropologists  were given  some choice time (making “buck-skin” clothes, preparing food, weaving the winter mat, and gathering sticks for fire). This time allowed for more exploration, finding out more about what life was like long ago. Embedded into their their activities were fine motor skill development – activities that support the development of the hand and finger muscles needed to correctly hold and use pencils and scissors.

Story Time

Native American traditions and culture were shared through a story in the wigwam. Through hearing a story the students gain respect for Native American culture. Following the story one boy quickly explained, “I liked hearing that story!”

Eventually our imaginative time travels came to an end, yet these lasting learning experiences will have an impact. This was a great way to lead into their upcoming Thanksgiving celebration.  When families gather to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday and students hear stories about Thanksgiving long ago, these experiences will come to mind. Like the Wampanoag at Plymouth, thousands of Native American nations and communities across the continent have their own histories and cultures.  When students learn about the Native People of this region they learn about an integral part of the American story.


We would love to have your students out here too! Blandford’s beautiful and complex ecosystems are here so students can learn, engage, explore, enjoy and value nature’s endless wonders.  Blandford offers a variety of field trip experiences.

Also, if you’re interested in developing nature-based, place-based learning experiences like this for your students please contact Janet Staal at



One thought on “Life Long Ago

  1. Pingback: Tapping a Maple Tree | Blandford Nature Center

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