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Tinkergarten gets kids, adults outside with fun, hands-on programs

January 30, 2017
in Kids

Kate Macartney spent a lot of time outside as a kid in her native Canada. Now, a mom of a two-year-old living in Durham, she's leading groups of kids and their adults through Tinkergarten programs, part of a national organization that offers early childhood education in the great outdoors. Designed for kids ages 18 months to 8 with their parents or caregivers, groups participate in activity-based classes that help them develop skills such as leadership, creativity and problem-solving by simply coming together and learning through play in the great outdoors. Macartney worked as an attorney and mediator when she lived in Canada, but has spent the past five years here, volunteering with the Durham courts system and, now, leading groups of kids and adults for play outside. "I always wondered if I should have become a teacher and Tinkergarten has been a wonderful opportunity to do so," she tells me. I checked in with Macartney by email to learn more about what she and other Tinkergarten leaders offer in the Triangle. Here's our email discussion. Go Ask Mom: What's Tinkergarten all about? Kate Macartney: In a nutshell, Tinkergarten provides educational and fun classes for kids ages 18 months to 8 years old, in the healthiest classroom of all — the outdoors. Each week, we gather in our “outdoor classroom” (our local park) and do a new nature-based activity or two. These activities are designed to be very engaging and to provide lots of freedom for the children to explore and to practice important capabilities like creativity, problem solving and empathy. We run four seasons of classes each year (which correspond with the actual seasons) and each season has a new curriculum of activities that help the children notice and engage with the changing natural world and continue to develop critical early childhood skills. Parents and/or caregivers attend the classes with their children and play a critical role of supporting their children while still giving them the ability to “guide” the play and explore in their own way. (Parents/caretakers often end up almost as dirty...

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