Research shows that time in nature improves children’s emotional regulation, social interactions, problem-solving and feelings of well-being. With the COVID-19 pandemic taking a toll on the mental health of most people, especially young learners, Social Emotional Learning (SEL) has become a vital aspect of many classrooms.

Mass Audubon’s Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary collaborated with Gardner Head Start to integrate nature-based teaching and learning into the school’s social-emotional curriculum. Through the education and engagement of the teachers, children and families, this year-long program used the natural world to support the Head Start goals of healthy social and emotional development in young children.

Not only did this program have a significant impact on the young learners, but also their teachers and families.

You can support programs like this when you donate to our Environment and Animal Welfare Fund.

This snapping turtle made a guest appearance during a Head Start Zoom class and laid eggs in the teacher’s home garden while students watched. The teacher decided to sacrifice her bean and cucumber plants to accommodate the turtle’s nest.