JCC Early Learning Center
at Congregation Sha’aray Shalom

The Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom at the JCC ELC Congregation Sha’aray Shalom in Hingham is an example of how to create a space with and for children. All it takes is a vision. A vision to create such a magical place with the children and for children to explore, learn, and create!

This schools vision all began with one of our Pre-K teachers who dreamt of creating a beautiful outdoor space for the children of our school to explore in nature, and that comes to how the “Explore” area of our outdoor classroom was named. One stick tower built by this teacher and her class turned into a full outdoor classroom during COVID. The result of this classroom creation was accomplished through dedication, team work, and our community to have this special space with a little bit of something for each and every child.

We have our Imagination Garden area where you will see children working together in “Build and Demolish” to build masterpieces with our large wooden blocks on the stage or using the stage to sit and listen to a story while eating their snack or lunch. Children may be sailing the seas in our row boat, or tending to the garden to assist teachers by planting and watering our seasonal flowers, fruits, or vegetables.

The wooded area called , “Explore,” provides a place for children to pretend, roam, explore, and create all in the beauty of nature. All of the features in this area of the classroom are made of natural materials such as sticks, twine, tree stumps, and plants. Each year we add to this area creating an additional stick tower with hard work by our Pre-K teacher and her crew. Children love to run freely through this area playing hide and seek, tag, or some other imaginative game created by them. The open-endedness of this area allows for much child-led play and creativity. The possibilities are endless!

Children can enjoy some gross motor fun on our climbing structure, “over and under.” They love to slide, jump, climb, and swing on this traditional playground structure. Standing close by to “Over and Under” is “Dump and Fill,” our mud kitchen area. Making a sand cupcake or nature stew is whipped up in this area! Our outdoor classroom is an every-evolving effort by both children and teachers. Plans are made, discussed, improved upon and then implemented in our wonderful outdoor classroom!