The Nature Explore Classroom at

TLC Early Learning

The TLC Early Learning Outdoor Learning Lab grew out of a vision of the educators and board of the school after looking for more authentic opportunities for children to connect to the outdoors and to continue to align with our Reggio-inspired philosophy.

Using a pocket of natural space near the building, we were able to capitalize on the trees and other natural elements that provide an endless abundance of loose parts and opportunities for play! Our special space was born with elbow grease and community involvement as we used our “can do” attitude to create an engaging space following the design principles from Nature Explore.

The director and staff have woodworking tools and know how to use them, chipping away at each area to make it more engaging and meaningful for children’s outdoor play. We have recycled and repurposed materials to keep our costs low and make a unique spot for play–no one will ever have a space just like ours! For example, we took the top level of our old wooden play area to become an open-ended play building in our space. It becomes a house, a fort, a grocery store, and more with the children’s imagination and needs.

Our local flavor is stamped on the space through collaborative art projects, our painted rocks, and bridge, and fun names for areas, such as our Log Lounge and Messy Materials Lab, where children bake, concoct and experiment with all things messy. You will find a colorful artistic bench crafted by the children and art teacher incorporating the variety of animals that can be found in the area along with sensory details, such as whiskers on the raccoon, and pebbles to create the owl, grasses, sticks, and bark.

The space is for children. The curriculum is the children and they are integral to planning what the space looks like and how it is used. We invite nature into the space as we capitalize on the rows of trees providing shade, habitat, places to climb, and interesting bits and pieces of nature. Children and educators can easily grab support materials in each area as well as from the storage facility. The entryway to the learning lab includes a bridge to cross over, along with signs encouraging children to wonder, explore, create, observe, investigate, take risks, and play, which is exactly what the children do daily in this space!


1801 N Main St.
Auburn, IN 46706