66th Street Early Education Center
There are many things that make our school site unique, especially our outdoor learning environment. Teacher Jeans states that, “the Nature Explore Classroom gives children an opportunity to experience a natural setting during school hours which makes it unique because most of our children do not experience nature in their neighborhoods.”
The outdoor classroom gives children an opportunity to plant, garden, and observe growth. The planting and gardening gives them a sense of responsibility for nurturing and taking care of nature. Our students feel so excited as they watch the growth process of planting in the garden.
The outdoor classroom gives students Teacher Jasmine stated, “the children enjoy going to see the garden in our outdoor environment. They like to discover the different fruits and vegetables growing. One of the children saw lemons growing on a tree and asked if he could take one home after he helped pick some. Another child picked some berries and ate them, noticing the different colors and how they tasted differently. The children especially like when the garden is turned into a pumpkin patch for fall. They go around to the different pumpkins and try to pick them up; they start noticing that the big ones are heavy and can’t be picked up by themselves, while the small ones are light enough for them to carry.”
Teacher Jazmin states, “We have a beautiful outdoor space where parents are free to roam during school celebrations. They have commented on how big and beautiful the outdoor environment is. Some children have stated that it reminds them of a park, and others even call our outdoor environment “the park.”
Our Nature Explore Classroom is unique for several reasons. For one, our space is big and it allows us to explore different areas during our outside time. For example, a child can ride a tricycle during their initial moments of outdoor play, venture off to the dramatic play area, and end their outdoor time at the discovery center. Secondly, it is structured to mimic our indoor classrooms enhanced by the aspects of nature, wind, sun, shade and different sounds, all of which enables the physical environment to decrease stress levels and improve challenging behaviors. Lastly, it encourages collaborations with other classrooms, which is beneficial because working with different skills and interest levels can help students contribute to meaningful and lasting learning experiences.
As the site administator, having the opportunity to explore and learn in nature, and engage with the children, the families that we serve, and the staff here at 66th Street Early Education Center is socially and emotionally uplifting. I am extremely greatful for these amazing, daily experiences.