The Nature Explore Classroom at
Scarbrough Center on the campus of Southeast Technical Institute
First Certified Nature Explore Classroom
in the state of South Dakota
When we started our plan we talked with Nature Explore to get our needs and wants down on paper. Then we worked with the Landscape Design class here on campus to design plans.
After picking a design plan that worked for us, the students at Southeast tech started building and putting together the outdoor classroom. We have continued to work on the classroom for the last 5 years by adding signs, the akambira and drums among many other classroom items. We were awarded grants and service projects to accomplish most all of the design. Attached is a layout of the outdoor classroom.
We made our own wooden signs and attached them to the fence in each of the areas or attached to a stick and put the sign in the ground in that area. We have photos to show the signs in different areas around the playground.
We have a very open concept and a large area and we can see very easily throughout the playground. Teachers have also been taught to position themselves throughout the playground to ensure supervision and interactions.
We planted trees and perennials throughout the nature classroom. We used small willow trees to make a tunnel and hope to make a small hut yet. We used tall grass, lambs ear, hosta and daylilies to give texture and color to the areas that are safe for children and easy to maintain. We also installed logs and stumps throughout the classroom to give it a natural feeling throughout.
All of our plants and trees have been easy to maintain and have been keeping up well. We are 5 years into our Nature classroom and the items that were built like the stage, benches, sandboxes and fence have held up well and we haven’t had to put much work into anything. We do have a maintenance and landscape team on campus that help with the upkeep. They add mulch throughout the year and fix things that may need fixing.
There is beauty throughout the playground seen through the trees, perennials, stumps, logs and equipment on the playground. We also use fabric and wind chimes on the playground in archways and to define areas to make it more beautiful.
One of the most interesting things on the playground is the arbor and fence made by the horticulture class on campus to divide the toddler playground from the rest of the playground. They used big rocks and many different branches to make our playground look unique. They also found a huge tree in which they made an opening for the children to play in like a small treehouse. They found all of these things right around our area and then incorporated them into the classroom. The staff made stepping stones to personalize the classroom and have added many different materials to keep the children interested, like pots and pans for music and easels on the fence!
We have been sending flyers home with the families and sending them information with their newsletters. We also tell our families at their initial parent visit how we use the nature classroom and why we feel it is important for children to be outdoors. We are planning a parent night this spring in the outdoor classroom to promote literacy and spending time outdoors!
2304 N. Career Avenue
Sioux Falls, SD 57107