EPNA Interview #8: Nadine Salama, Green Tulip Preschool

This is a new series of posts in which I interview Portland personalities that are making a difference in connecting children of this region to nature. Richard Louv, the premier voice in the children and nature movement, has written several times about our natureful city. In Last Child in the Woods, he remarked on Portland’s Greenspaces program’s “call for the creation of a regional system of parks, natural areas, greenways, and trails for both wildlife and people;” PSU students’ research on possible greenroof design in downtown; and the 40-Mile Loop. In The Nature Principle, Louv commented on research in Portland on the health benefits of nature (outdoor “prescriptions”); profiled a teacher who worked as an assistant for a study of small mammals in an urban green space (Marshall Park); described Mike Houck’s work to make room for nature in a big city at a time when the consensus was that nature and wildlife were elsewhere, not within where people dwell; and how the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge provides access to nature via the bus system. There are other mentions of Portland, too. Patrick, Catherine, and I feel lucky to live in a city that values what the Earth gives to it. Moreover, we feel privileged to share this city with folks who strive to not only instill a love of nature into its citizens’ minds and hearts, but in providing better access to that nature.

Please contact me at darwinsbulldog@gmail.com if you have a suggestion for someone to be interviewed for this series.

Today I talk to Nadine Salama, Founder at Green Tulip Preschool.

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Hi Nadine, welcome to Exploring Portland’s Natural Areas. Would you please share with us your background – education, jobs, etc. that relate to nature in some way?

I am the founder and teacher at Green Tulip Preschool, an indoor/outdoor preschool in SE Portland. I have a BA in Psychology from Rutgers University.

Describe for us how you connect Portland kids to nature. Tell us about your programs.

I run a nature preschool in SE Portland. The Green Tulip Preschool is a nature-based indoor/outdoor preschool serving children in Portland. The school is equipped with a covered outdoor classroom making outside play and exploration available year round – no matter the weather. The outdoor classroom is an area for our friends to garden, have daily interactions with our school animals, watch wild birds feed from one of our many feeding stations, play and dig in the sand, jump on tree stumps, paint and create and have a great time. The indoor environment is an area for the children to explore many different learning stations about the world. We present many of the various lessons through the natural world. This month we will be watching tadpole eggs grow. We present the world to our young friends in hopes of promoting a lasting connection with nature. The Green Tulip is home to 3 chickens, a rabbit, and a fish. We have a wild bird garden and we encourage the wild birds to visit by providing them food and shelter. I strongly believe that caring for animals will instill a sense of empathy and compassion in the children and also bring them happiness. We often take nature walks and collect items to craft with or explore under our microscopes and just recently we created a painting using items from nature in honor of Alexander Yurkov, a Russian artist who uses leaves to create his masterpieces. Lastly, we recycle, upcycle, and compost and garden year round using our greenhouse in the outdoor classroom.

Do you have any moments in nature from your childhood that left an impression on you?

I don’t have one experience in particular however, I remember spending hours on end playing outside and discovering the world around me.

Do you have children yourself? If so, tell me about their relationship to nature.

I do not have children of my own but I do have nieces and nephews that love to spend hours outside on nature scavenger hunts and crafting with items we find on our nature walks.

Describe for us something about Portland’s focus on nature that you think is valuable for the city’s youth.

I think Portland is one of the best cities for connecting our youth with nature. The area itself offers bountiful opportunities for our children to learn in the many parks and programs available today.

Is there anything missing that you would like to see happen in Portland?

I would really like to see more covered outdoor classrooms in our schools. I believe that our climate makes it difficult for both teachers and children to spend quality time outside and research has shown that providing an outdoor environment makes children happier and helps them learn better. Once outdoors, the connection to nature is instant making the learning experience a more authentic one.

Do you have any advice for parents looking to connect their kids to nature?

There are many small and simple steps parents can take to create a connection between their children and nature. Most children love watching the birds feed from our birdfeeders. Hanging birds feeders in your garden is a great way to introduce birds to your children who can then learn to identify the different bird species. We also love hiking and going on nature scavenger hunts, this is such a great and simple way to learn about nature and enjoy the outdoors as well.

There are many wonderful resources available to parents such as this wonderful blog!

Oh, thank you! What is you favorite natural space in our city?

Tryon Creek would have to be my favorite among the many great spaces here in Portland.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Nadine!

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