The Nature Explore Classroom at
Little Tot’s LLC
In 2010, our proprietor Lisa Boni, began an action research study on the subject of the restorative effects of natural environments on children’s health and well being.
This research led Lisa on to devote her time to reviewing literature on the topic, and ultimately to writing her master’s thesis on the subject of advocating for children’s right to freely experience green settings. As a result of that research and accompanying scientific observation, Little Tot’s Early Childhood Care & Education began the process of transforming the schools traditional outdoor playground into an engaging outdoor nature classroom.
Throughout the process, many essential elements were added to connect young learners to the outside world and to allow nature to ‘teach’ children important life lessons. One of our first big changes was to construct two large organic gardens! Gardening has been a wonderful introduction into the world of fresh food. Now, because the children grow the food, they take special interest in trying all of the new vegetables too.
Another very exciting addition to our outdoor classroom was the natural building blocks. The children delighted in having a new tactile experience and the opportunity to stand on a table and build as high as the sky! And though we have always had a dirt digging area, the construction of the new area signs, and the addition of the mud kitchen has made digging up worms for ‘dinner’ much more fun!
A founding principal at Little Tot’s has always been that children have the right to learn and grow in a healthy natural environment which includes the opportunity to play and learn outdoors as well as indoors. Experience and research have shown that there are a multitude of cognitive as well as physical, emotional and social benefits to experiencing natural outdoor settings. It has also been found that children need that direct connection to the earth to restore wellbeing and peace in their minds.
In addition to all that we have learned through the observations of children in our new sensory and nature oriented play-spaces outdoors; perhaps unintentionally we adults have learned that we are encouraging later stewardship in adulthood by providing the green spaces for children to interact in. For how better to appreciate the earth than to plant a garden, run free, climb a tree, roll in the grass, dig for worms, study bugs, splash in the mud, and gaze at the clouds; in awe of the vast world you live in.
Lisa Boni M.Ed., Owner
Macomb, MI 48044