The Nature Explore Classroom at

Nature and Nature Family Child Care (formerly Cradles and Crayons Family Child Care)

Nature and Nurture Family Child Care has been providing care for over 30 years.

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In 2015, we earned the highest possible level of Five Stars in the Nebraska Step Up to Quality ratings system. I was very pleased with our learning environment inside. Realization sunk in; we spend time outside every day (we missed only three days last winter) and in the spring, summer and fall we could spend 3+ hours outside a day. This was time that was being neglected as a learning environment. The Nature Explore program was the perfect solution.

Not only do the children love all of the individual learning areas that were added because of the Nature Explore program guiding principles, we also started moving a lot of our curriculum and activities outside and becoming more intentional in our outdoor learning and play.

Recently I attended the Midwest Early Childhood Educator Symposium Second Nature: Reintroducing Children to the Outdoors at the Morton Arboretum in Chicago, Illinois and learned so much about outdoor classrooms and many ways to enhance our Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom. Attending numerous workshops and conferences and networking with other providers that feature Certified Classrooms, has helped us on our journey. A journey that we continue as new and different items are added and changed as the children and I learn, grow and develop.

Now the children are not afraid to get dirty, they are fascinated by bugs, birds and worms; they plant gardens, learn about the environment around them and explore nature. We are outside
almost every day and can see first hand the changes in our backyard world.

When open ended, loose parts were first added, the children had no clue how to use them. They rarely used their imagination and tended to copy TV shows for their form of play. Now they dig, construct, design, create, climb and crawl; and most importantly they use their own imagination.

My favorite testimony of our outdoor classroom isn’t eloquent or even grammatically correct but it comes from the heart. A three year old, told me one afternoon, after we had already played
outside for three hours, “Do we have’ta go in? I wanna stay outside.”

Jen Nelson

 

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Omaha, NE

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