The Nature Explore Classroom at
The Children’s College
Our program has always been based on high-quality practiced of both early childhood education and developmentally appropriate practices but did not have the element of environmental education.
We always went outdoors when weather permitted, but now we go outdoors and explore. We accomplish our goals through experiences with open-ended materials in the classroom and what’s in the outdoor environment.
Our program is small and unique, but very large with families present. We require 100% participation with our parents. When we decided to transition our program from the traditional setting into a nature setting, the first question was what the parents would think about this transition. So, we decided to show the plans to the parents and share our vision for the new program in September 2017. We wanted the parents to be a huge part of what was happening and the transformation to the program. We wanted their input every step of the way. Then, collectively to have a fundraiser in 2017, the Trike-A-Thon. The parents raised $1,075.00 for the art panel located in our outdoor classroom as an addition to the tables and tree stumps.
One reason we wanted to change our program to a more natural environment is to give children the opportunity to explore more and become more creative. Elevating the children’s critical and scientific thinking in the world they live in. Reminiscing about my own childhood; running in the grass, catching insects, rolling down hills, smelling flowers, climbing trees and wondering if this would happen and what would happen next. We always had our hands in the earth, growing our own vegetables. We grew carrots, beets, tomatoes, collard greens and kale. I even grew up with my own chickens and rooster in the middle of the city. These animals were considered our pets even though they produced food for our family. When they no longer produced, well you know what happened to them.
Speaking of Mother Earth, we have never had a garden in our environment but we have always planted seeds or had a greenhouse and watched the seeds grow. We now have a space to call a garden. Even though it’s on a wall, we can smell and taste the herbs and pick them when we make something special for lunch.
I believe our space will be changing our relationships with parents and children because our setting feels more like a home away from home in a natural setting. With warm colors on the walls, framed art flowers in vases, baskets where we explain to our children were made from working hands in other countries and soft elements that give that home away from home feel. We use real dishes and silverware for our meals throughout the day.
Our parents and visitors like the changes we made to the program. I feel special in our new space like this is a new beginning for myself, but it’s really not. I’m just looking in the mirror and watching myself play with my friends. We will continue transforming day by day.