The Nature Explore Classroom at
Cornerstone Center for Early Learning
Nature is the fundamental structure supporting the species of the world. Nature is authoritarian. Nature is majestic. Nature is the original masterpiece of the world. Moreover, at times, nature is catastrophic, overwhelming and frightening.
Consider adults and children with little understanding of the natural environment that surrounds them. They are understandably fearful of nature. Yet, without nature, species will cease to exist. This is the importance and the manifestation of the Certified Outdoor Classroom in the heart of the City of St. Louis located at Cornerstone Center for Early Learning.
Cornerstone Center proudly serves 156 children in an urban early childhood center. Families face loss of life, employment, housing and financial needs on a weekly basis. Cornerstone embraces the uniqueness’s of their families by discovering small moments of celebration as a means to maintain joy and positivity in an otherwise challenging life. This is why the Certified Outdoor Classroom is so necessary for this community.
The outdoor classroom originally developed out of necessity. At the onset of the pandemic, classrooms required safe distancing from one another. Cornerstone’s staff quickly utilized all available space on their campus consisting of three buildings, a small green space and a well-developed playground. After a variety of naturalistic training from the administration level to families and volunteers, the outdoor space transformed into a community garden, greenhouses, intentional and experiential centers, in conjunction with modifications of existing areas.
With the generosity of donors and volunteers, the formerly raised sand area was converted into a musical/movement area adorned with beautifully colored fabrics along with gently used pots, pans, hubcaps and bike spokes for an intentional music wall. This was made possible with donations from Cornerstone’s families. As the development of the Cornerstone campus continued, many more volunteers and organizations stepped in to assist Cornerstone; the Pott Foundation, Regional Business Council and the Employees Community Fund of Boeing St. Louis, to name a few.
Cornerstone Center proudly shares the community garden with their neighborhood families along with the center’s families. Children enjoy tomatoes, cabbage, peppers, a variety of herbs and more. Currently, Cornerstone is in the early stages of partnership with a farming company to learn and produce micro greens in the greenhouses on campus.
There are memories created every day and a lifetime of development for new experiences that lie ahead at Cornerstone Center for Early Learning. Cornerstone’s community is awakening to the love of nature. Screams from adults and children alike when a toad appears in the outdoor space are progressing more and more into curiosity and interest. The magical distraction of nature in this community continues to provide strength, confidence, compassion and a better understanding of the world in which we live.
3901 Russell Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63110