The Nature Explore Classroom at
Kiddie Academy of Fontana
There are some special spaces in the Outdoor Classroom of Kiddie Academy of Fontana. The spaces transport children to a forest stage, where they are banging on drums and shaking bells to an audience seated on tree stumps. They travel to a restaurant kitchen, where they bake mud cakes and fry dirt and dandelions. They walk across a small bridge to a garden area where they can care for their growing vegetables, fruits and flowers.
The Small World play area brings kids to a fairytale land, where they build mushroom-topped castles. Children grab African baskets and walk around the grass area, imagining they are journeying through meadows and fields.
The outdoor classroom is also a STEAM lab. If children look closely they will find rollie pollies and wiggly worms. There are tables where they can conduct science experiments, and transparent movable boards for teachers to post up learning materials. Wooden blocks, loose parts and PVC pipes and fittings give children the opportunity to engage in their own learning by engineering creative structures. Chalkboards, dry erase boards and transparent panels draw in nature-inspired little artists.
Although there are 170 children from ages infants to 12 that share this space, this yard is engaging for all age groups. A year and a half ago we started out with a barren yard that had lots of concrete, one grass area and a few play structures. We kicked off the transformation of the Outdoor Classroom with a Family Garden Day, where families helped to plant our gardens in newly built planters, including a fairy garden for the infants. Holes were punched in the concrete for large shade trees, and were strategically placed to allow for shade and greenery throughout the formerly drab concrete area. A large planter was built over the concrete and filled with dirt to create a messy play area and mud kitchen. Passion Fruit Ivy was planted around the perimeter, and a wooden stage and a garden shelter structure were built and decorated.
As the yard was being developed, teachers were given training and were mentored to integrate outdoor curriculum into their lesson plans. Over time, this yard has been transformed into a space where teachers are enabled to teach lessons outside, children can feel engaged and explore multiple interests, and everyone can appreciate the beauty of what nature has to offer.
11117 Sierra Avenue
Fontana, Ca 92337