The question of nature vs. nurture is not an issue in RecSchool, according to program officials.

The question of nature vs. nurture is not an issue in RecSchool, according to program officials.

They say the Grove City Parks and Recreation Department's preschool program uses nature to help nurture its young students.

Registration for the 2016-17 school year will begin in mid-February. The preschool program runs from September through May and is held in the Gantz Barn in Gantz Park, 2259 Home Road.

RecSchool has had a nature-based focus for the past several years, said Michele Demmy, the program's coordinator.

"We recognize the benefits of children being out in nature," she said. "We're very fortunate to have Gantz Park at our disposal. We take the children out for an exploration of the park every day, as long as it's at least 20 degrees outside and weather conditions are safe."

During their time outdoors, youngsters might take a walk through the woods, explore the creek bank or gather objects from nature, Demmy said.

"In the fall, they might pick a leaf and bring it inside to examine under a microscope," she said. "When it snows, we have the children feel the snow, observe it melting or pack the snow into ice balls."

"Going out and exploring the park gives our students a sense of adventure," RecSchool teacher Karen DeVore said. "That's what we call it: having an adventure.

"When we were kids, we'd go outside all the time, but a lot of children these days rarely go outside on their own," she said. "Spending time outside connects them to the simple beauty of nature."

Time outdoors improves youngsters' physical and mental well-being, gives them more self-confidence and also improves their ability to focus in the classroom, Demmy said.

And students love their daily trek outdoors, she said.

"The three questions our students are always asking are will their best friends be at preschool today, what is today's snack going to be and when are we going outside?" Demmy said. "It's just natural for them to want to be outside."

RecSchool also features traditional elements of preschool, she said.

The program is licensed by the state and follows the Ohio Department of Education's standards for early learning.

Children attend two or three half-day classes per week in the morning from 9 to 11:30 a.m. or in the afternoon from 12:30 to 3 p.m.

"We're making learning fun and exciting so the children don't even realize they're learning," Demmy said. "We plan a program that makes sure they enter kindergarten ready to learn."

A RecSchool open house will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 30.

While youngsters participate in activities, parents will be able to tour the classrooms, meet staff members and schedule a registration appointment, Demmy said.

For registration information, parents can contact Demmy at 614-871-6330 or mdemmy@grovecityohio.gov. More information about RecSchool also is available at grovecityohio.gov.

Children must be 3 years old by Sept. 30 to participate in the 2016-17 program.