Valley Pre-School look to nature…

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Valley Pre-School students look to nature for art and creative inspiration

By Andrea Burns

From the shriveled apples used to make figures for the recent art show to the moss and pinecones used to make a habitat for a gnome, nature plays a prominent role in helping students at Valley Pre-School to think creatively.

“In this digital age where children have so many forms of media and toys available to capture their attention, they don’t always spend as much time just exploring nature,” said Christie Goldman, teacher assistant for one of the 4-year-old classes at Valley. “When you take away technology and bring the children outside, the opportunities to learn and play are endless.”

That is one of the reasons Goldman and fellow Valley Pre-School teacher Kim Tawney decided to hold an after-school session focused on nature. In the session called “Forest Small World,” students search the woods and use their imaginations to create a home for a gnome.

“In thinking about what a gnome would need to live, students look for pieces of bark or acorns that could be used to create things like beds and chairs,” Goldman said. “In the process, we teach children about living and non-living things and how to be respectful of forest life.”

In addition to the science lessons, the session incorporates a story telling element.

“We tell the students to be sure to use quiet voices and small, short steps because we never know when a gnome might show up outside or visit the classroom,” Tawney said. “It’s so exciting to see the students’ faces light up with a sense of wonder over the mythical creatures. They even come up with their own stories about the gnomes.”

This after-school session is part of Valley Pre-School’s Catapult program, which includes three-to-six-week mini sessions, usually on Wednesdays, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The students explore subjects such as puppetry, Lego construction, movement, drama and more.

Valley Pre-School’s use of nature in sparking creativity was also evident at the recent art show where the four-year-old classes produced various art forms from painting and textile art to homemade paper and a collaborative full-size sculpture. Much of the artwork drew from the children’s outdoor experiences, including the leaf prints, pumpkin stamps, and photographs of the children’s shadows.

“We try to make the art meaningful for the students by connecting it to an experience or lesson that is real for them,” said Kathy Jackson, director of Valley and head teacher for one of the 4-year-old classes. “For example, the dried apples the students used to create “apple children” came from our field trip last fall to Lost Acres Orchard. The art show is a culmination of many lessons throughout the year and the children are so proud to show their guests what they have created.”

A sampling of the students’ artwork was recently on display at the East Granby Public Library and was scheduled to move on to the Granby Public Library.

Valley Pre-School is now accepting applications for the 2014-2015 school year. Students enrolled in the 4-year-old program are eligible to participate in the Catapult program. For more information, call 860- 653-3641, or visit

“Apple Children” on display at Valley Pre-School’s art show. The dried apples used in the artwork came from a field trip to Lost Acres Orchard.


Valley Pre-School student Dylan Mirro creates a habitat for a gnome during an after-school program focused on nature.