Under an old oak tree on a late October morning, a four year old boy crouches down to add acorns to his collection of autumn leaves, seed pods, and a blue jay feather that he carries in a little metal pail. Across the park, a grandmother admires her two year old granddaughter’s persistence as she repeatedly picks up and drops small pebbles one at a time with big plastic tweezers into her pail. Not far away, several parents and caregivers discuss the book Blueberries for Sal while their children drop red spicebush berries into their pails: Kurplink, kurplank, kurplunk. Suddenly a duck call rings out and the children all go running through the short grass and autumn leaves to their “class room”, a blue tarp nestled into a patch of trees, where they excitedly show one another the “nature treasures” they just discovered. Once everyone is gathered, children, ages 0-8 (Explorers) and adults (Guides) form a circle and sing their welcome song. Then the Leader reads a Halloween book to the class, sets a large pot in the middle of the tarp, and they launch into the activity of the day: making witches brew! Taking turns stirring the pot, the cackling Explorers sprinkle in a little of this and dump in a little of that to the chorus of “oohs” and “ahhs” from the observing Guides.
This is Tinkergarten, a class that meets weekly in local parks where a trained leader facilitates expertly-designed, seasonally- themed curriculum for local families.
The mission of Tinkergarten is to teach caregivers how to share authentic outdoor learning experiences with their children, so those children may develop into curious, capable and well-balanced people. This happens through independent exploration and well-designed activities that encourage a host of important capabilities including self-reliance, compassion, creativity, leadership, and problem solving. With the support of vetted and trained local leaders (most of whom are parents themselves), parents and caregivers will learn how to support their children’s developmental stages in a communal setting while their kids get to explore, expend energy, and work together in nearby green spaces. Tinkergarten Leaders throughout the Beltway would love to share this awesome program with you and your child!
Below is a list of the fall classes currently offered in and near the DC Metro area. Please note that this list changes from season-to-season as local Leaders’ schedules change – check the website for more information including up-to-date schedules, free trial classes (usually offered at the beginning of each season), prices, and to sign up for free DIY activities. Some classes have begun for this session and if you sign-up the cost will be pro-rated. While you’re there, be sure to check out this video introduction to Tinkergarten.
Washington DC –
Capitol Hill, Tuesday morning and Wednesday afternoon
Baltimore, Saturday morning
Catonsville, Tuesday morning
Chevy Chase, Wednesday morning, Thursday afternoon, Thursday morning
Fredrick, Tuesday morning, Friday morning, Sunday afternoon
Silver Spring, Wednesday morning, Saturday morning
University Park, Tuesday morning, Saturday morning
Wheaton-Glenmont, Wednesday morning
In & near the Beltway in Virginia –
Arlington, Saturday morning
Bristow, Tuesday morning
Lorton, Saturday morning
Purcellville, Friday morning
Springfield, Saturday morning
This Guest Post was written by Elizabeth Auerbach, a Tinkergarten Leader in the DC area.