The Brindle Foundation, a Santa Fe-based nonprofit charitable organization dedicated to early childhood development, recently awarded a $25,720 grant to the UNM College of Education's Family Development Program to publish Watch Me Play, Watch Me Learn In Nature book.

The Watch Me Play, Watch Me Learn in Nature publication builds upon the companion book Watch Me Play, Watch Me Learn, a publication that has been well received by families, early childhood educators and early care providers throughout the state of New Mexico, also funded generously by the Brindle Foundation.

The Watch Me Play, Watch Me Learn in Nature celebrates children's innate curiosity and exploration in the natural world and provides insights directly from young children themselves that can help sharpen our understanding and planning for how to integrate early learning into an innovative New Mexico plan for environmental literacy that begins at birth.

"We took time to observe and photograph young children in a variety of settings – from small backyards to wide-open farms and river fronts – and observed how they came to understand the natural world," said UNM Family Development Program Director Lois Vermilya. "The children showed us that nature provides an environment that promotes the development of skills essential for life-long learning. Throughout the book we examine nature as teacher using the essential skills all children need for success and life-long learning."

As with the Watch Me Play, Watch Me Learn books and training series, FDP staff members will incorporate the new nature publication to build on the successful series that supports families and early childhood educators. The intent is to engage parents and teachers in the understanding that all of the elements in the natural world provide an endless source of possibilities for imagination, play and learning.

This newest publication addresses children's early education in the natural world: all components that provide an unlimited learning environment for discovery, imagination, observation, interaction, and experimentation. Their innate curiosity and disciplined sensibilities for inquiry build strong foundations for early science, math and literacy while also promoting the development of skills essential for life-long learning.

"When we carefully observe babies, toddlers and preschoolers exploring the natural world – and using all their senses – we can see thoughtful young scientists at work. Their investigations demonstrate questions and theories about how things work, while also showing us children's delight and determination as fully engaged and active learners," stated Vermilya. "And all this happens at a time of rapid brain development and when exposure to the world outside helps build stronger immune systems in their developing bodies. Getting dirty can be fun and healthy."

FDP is in support of New Mexico's Environmental Literacy Plan, and believes that a thoughtful review of how New Mexico can integrate universal principals developed by the Nature Action Collaborative for Children, a workgroup of the World Forum Foundation, will be helpful. The goal is to help New Mexico bridge our state's Early Learning Guidelines with K – 12 common core standards that include a continuum of learning for environmental education and stewardship.