The Nature Explore Classroom at
Meridian Hills Cooperative Nursery School
Assistant Director and teacher Linda Foley discovered the Nature Explore Program and attended a workshop at Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana in the Fall of 2016.
After sharing the experience with the co-op staff, Diana Wallace, the executive director of the Indiana Association for the Education of Young Children, was invited to visit and advise the school on this certification. A committee of parents and staff was formed and the planning began with a landscape architect and childhood friend of Linda Foley’s who donated an initial design that included a beautiful dry creek bed that addressed a significant erosion and safety issue on the hillside. Anchored by large aggregate stones and filled with smaller rocks, stormwater and an installed hand pump would create a water feature for play.
This plan created a vision that coalesced ideas being considered to honor the beloved former teacher and director Shari Robinson who passed away in the fall of 2015. Shari was a nature and art lover and after retiring in 2000, she remained involved with the school by inviting classes to her home for fall nature scavenger hunts and to make cider from her vintage cider press. As a watercolor artist, she returned annually to visit classes to lead individual and class still life projects.
Not only was Nature Explore a perfect fit for the school, but it was also a perfect way to honor Shari and her years of service to children incorporating nature and the arts. Thus, the “Reimagine our Playground” campaign was born. Through the annual alumni appeal, families donated in Shari’s honor to help fund the creek bed, new entrance arbor, garden boxes and other enrichments and updates to the space. Dianna had known Shari and agreed that certification was a natural extension of the outdoor experiences that have been a focus of the school for decades, and a perfect tribute to someone who made an indelible mark on early childhood education in Indiana.
To underwrite this exciting project, a $5000 “REIMAGINE our Playground” campaign was born with an enhanced alumni appeal in February of 2017. A historic amount was raised nearly doubling the original goal. Families donated in Shari’s honor to fund the dry creek bed, build a new entry arbor, build garden boxes, establish sensory and butterfly gardens, and restore her cider press.
The additional summer volunteer workdays were well-attended and included a long-time friend of Shari’s, her two daughters and one granddaughter who came to weed, dig and transplant alongside current staff and parents. Plants from Shari’s home proudly sit in the new Director’s’ Corner garden situated between the school entrance and the welcome entry to the playground. In the 57 years of the school, there have only been three to serve as directors, two past and one current. All three women were co-op parents, teachers, and directors at this school and plants from the other two women’s homes join Shari’s.
7171 N Pennsylvania St
Indianapolis, IN 46240