Cornerstone Center for Early Learning

COMMUNITY. According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of a community is a unified body of individuals: such as an interacting population of various kinds of individuals in a common location. This is Cornerstone Center for Early Learning experiencing the joy of the certified outdoor classroom!

In 2021, Cornerstone Center’s 65 staff proudly served 172 children. Cornerstone is committed to maintaining at least 50% of the student population from low-income households. Three buildings 100+ years old create the campus of Cornerstone Center in the City of St. Louis containing a 53-year-old history. Children daily receive two meals plus snack, diapers, wipes, baby food and formula, free books, clothes, coats, and they experience the possibilities associated with an outdoor learning environment. Cornerstone is a not-for-profit organization. How is all of this possible? COMMUNITY.

Cornerstone Center for Early Learning’s community consists of children, parents, staff, board members, donors/funders, volunteers and neighbors. Cornerstone is in the heart of a residential neighborhood. As the staff and children plant in the community garden, a neighbor mows the area in preparation. Cornerstone no longer employs a custodial staff member or has a lawn service on call. A neighbor volunteers to maintain the landscape in the outdoor classroom and surrounding areas. Volunteer groups also step in to assist with the task of landscaping from individuals to employees of a corporation or congregation.

As the staff and children yield microgreens from the greenhouses, they decide to share with their neighbors. The children and educators gather their yield and walk two blocks to hand deliver the microgreens to Fiddlehead Fern Café. They are sharing with the community. Neighbors randomly offer native species of plants from their outdoor landscapes to the children and staff of the Center. The neighbors thrill in observation of their shared vegetation growing in the certified space. When the children need additional supplies in the outdoor classroom, donors/funders provide the funding to maintain a healthy, safe and experiential learning opportunity. When extra hands are required during times of staff shortages, volunteers offer their nurturing assistance. COMMUNITY.

The children and staff at Cornerstone Center for Early Learning continue to explore, learn and grow within the beauty of the certified outdoor classroom in an urban setting due to the strength, support and love from the community. In the midst of economically challenging times, the community is the backbone of the certified outdoor classroom.