The Nature Explore Classroom at
Room to Grow
Room to Grow was founded in 2007 and from the very beginning we have worked to create a strong connection with nature throughout our program.
From our Redwood forest to the natural creek and digging area, to the garden and chicken coop, children work and play in a natural environment every day.
The playground that was originally part of our facility was very traditional containing swings, several heavy-duty plastic climbing structures and a paved area for riding tricycles. Driven in part by the staff’s memories of childhoods spent in natural places, we have slowly transformed the outdoor area into a space that frequently provokes visitors to say, ‘Wow! I wish I could be a kid and play here!’
We believe that our classroom spaces, both inside and out, should be viewed as a ‘3rd teacher’ and offer rich and varied opportunities to explore, problem-solve, and create. During the transformation, we kept the swing set and added a dome climber, but all the other elements in our outdoor classroom were created for and by the staff, parents, and children of Room to Grow. We were fortunate that the original playground contained many mature trees and we used them as anchors for the arrangement of the outdoor space. We retained the swings and a grass area and added a garden and chicken coop, a forest, a place for birds and bird watching, a creek and flowing water and an abundance of natural ‘loose parts’ including branches, stones and boulders, and sand.
One of the biggest changes we made was not to the outdoor environment itself, but to the daily schedule. Except for a beginning and ending community time, children have unrestricted access to the outdoor classroom and can move freely between the two spaces. The new schedule brought an immediate and remarkable change. Children became more purposeful in their choices and activities, more focused and persistent in pursuing their ideas, and more relaxed and peaceful in their interactions with each other.
Our outdoor classroom is and probably always will be a work in progress. On a daily basis, activities shift from one area to another and materials from many parts of the classroom are combined and recombined as children explore and create. We are constantly thinking and planning ways to improve the space-new plantings, additional materials, new features. Our outdoor classroom is a space that is treasured and enjoyed by all.
Karen Nattrass, , Director/Teacher
678 Enos Way
Livermore, CA 94550