The Nature Explore Classroom at
Buffalo Early Learning Center
North Platte Public Schools
The Outdoor Classroom at the Buffalo Early Learning Center has been a labor of love for the staff members of this building.
In spring of 2020, during the COVID shutdown, the district finalized plans to consolidate two elementary schools because of decreasing enrollment in these buildings. The North Platte Public Schools administration decided to repurpose the former Buffalo Elementary and move some of the district preschools to this building to make it the Buffalo Early Learning Center. In making this an Early Learning Center, some of the playground equipment had to be removed because it was not age-appropriate for preschool students. The administrator assigned to this building was looking for economical ways to expand the playground as well as making it more engaging for student learning as children need to be able to engage in all types of learning outdoors. An expansion grant had been received through the Nebraska Department of Education with some funds being earmarked for playground equipment and Head Start had some funds to contribute, so research began in how to create an outdoor classroom.
The building administrator scheduled meetings with various stakeholders to explore outdoor classrooms. After listening to how others had built their outdoor classrooms and seeing pictures, teachers began meeting and mapping out how they wanted the outdoor classroom to look. Right before school began in August of 2020, teachers and their own family members broke ground on the initial phases of the Outdoor Classroom by putting in the seats for the music and movement area.
When school started since students from the high school shop class could not go into the community for a building project due to COVID, so they came to the Buffalo Early Learning Center to build the stage and other areas. Volunteer days were done to install the equipment purchased with grant money. The first phase of the playground was completed in October of 2020 and plans were put in place for additional phases. The after school programming coordinator for Kids Klub decided to start utilizing the space at the Buffalo Early Learning center for cummerbund programming. A grant became available for funding and outdoor classrooms were a target area, so the Kids Klub coordinator and building administrator worked to write this grant to secure additional funding to expand this area even further.
Volunteers such as the FFA, UNL Extension, Project Search students, students from the NPHS Transition House, and Pheasants Forever were all utilized to help us create parts of the Outdoor Classroom. It took us a lot of time to complete the different projects from this grant, but once completed, they really enhanced this space. A second grant for the summer of 2022 was obtained as well, and we are utilizing these funds to add some additional items and to finish up some ideas we had the previous summer but were not able to complete. Overall, it is amazing to see what a great space that was created over time and how much the students enjoy it.
600 N Buffalo Bill Avenue
North Platte, NE 69101