East Union Early Childhood Center

When we moved to this location our outdoor space was basically an open area with a ditch and two drainage
covers. We had some plastic equipment we used and a few trikes for the children to ride. Over a five-year period,
we have continually worked toward the outdoor space we wanted. Our space was strongly influenced by a Nature
Explore Classroom that I had visited. This is what sparked the creation of our space.

The first priority was a trike path with a covered bridge to ride through and store trikes. We added the sandpit,
with the help of some high school students. Parents brought in big rocks for the border. The dirt from the sandpit was piled to start our dirt-digging hill. Next, we added planter boxes for gardening. Our children love to garden. We added our creative dramatics stage next. We use this area for gathering, music, and creative dramatics. It also gives us needed shade. We then had a staff member donate a rocket ship made from a tree trunk, a bench made from a tree trunk, a boat made from wood, and a mud kitchen.

A grant was written for fencing to divide the outdoor space to allow children to be outside more hours during the day. We then added pea gravel and our water area. Another grant was written for surfacing to build on and a climber. A woodworking area was added along with a messy parts area. We then added a nature art area along with our building tables.

This year we have added storage and our hand pump with sleuth. We added two apple trees, some bushes and bird feeders into the space. We enjoy feeding the birds each day. The dirt-digging hill has diggers with real shovels. The children love to use the dump trucks on our dirt hill. In our woodworking area, we use real hand drills. The latest item we have been drilling is pumpkins.

We go outside in the rain, snow, wind, cold and hot. We love the outdoors and all the education and experiences it offers children. We involve parents often in planning and creating our space. Parents enjoy our space with their child during Family Fun Nights. We encourage art with nature. Children paint with a variety of items from nature and do nature impressions with play-doh. We have found a decline in aggressiveness and an increase in the ability to focus in children when they spend more time outdoors experiencing nature. Teachers have learned a different way of planning. The four teachers in our program have chosen an area to be in charge of. Our outdoor space is one we are proud of.

We want to thank the DEKKO Foundation and South Central Community Foundation. Without the grant money,
we would not have been able to create this wonderful environment for children to experience.