The Nature Explore Classroom at

Gretchen’s House @ Highscope

Several years ago Gretchen Preston, the owner of Gretchen’s House Child Care Centers, attended the Nature Explore Leadership Institute in Nebraska. This conference inspired her to design all new outdoor classrooms to meet the Nature Explore standards and to redesign existing spaces.

Flash forward to 2019 when Gretchen encouraged three of our current administrators to return to the institute. We returned to Ann Arbor with a renewed sense of import for bringing all of our outdoor classrooms consistently in line with the Nature Explore guiding principles. To ensure that staff had the resources they needed to meet the outdoor classroom criteria at their individual centers, we have been meeting with representatives from each of our eight centers on the first Friday of the month since June of 2021.

As we continued our work on our physical spaces together, we were also more intentional in sharing this information with staff and families. During the summer of 2021 we had all staff trained by Nature Explore. All staff either attended, “Learning Outdoors with Infants and Toddlers” or “Using Your Outdoor Classroom.” We have also posted to our social media about outdoor learning opportunities for families and have shared activities from the Family Resources tab with our community once monthly for almost a year.

In 2021, Gretchen’s House partnered with the Highscope curriculum foundation to collaborate in running their Demonstration Preschool classroom. Being a demonstration classroom, teachers who want to learn about Highscope can observe the teachers and classroom. Having a Nature Explore playground at the Highscope Demonstration Preschool site will show teachers from around the state and country that this renowned, research-based curriculum can be implemented to fidelity within an outdoor classroom. The preschool classroom at this site also is run through a state funded program called the Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP). This program provides quality preschool to children throughout the state of Michigan who meet eligibility factors such as coming from a low-income, single-parent, or English learning home. Gretchen’s House @ Highscope is excited to meet the program and children needs with our Nature Explore outdoor classroom.


206 E Forest
Ypsilanti Mi 48196