The Nature Explore Classroom at
University of California, Irvine Extended Day Center
The University of California, Irvine Extended Day is a unique after-school program. We have our own fenced outdoor classroom that flows directly from the indoors and we are able offer a free-flow for most of the day, with the great majority of children choosing to be outside most of the time.
We are one of five child care centers on the UCI campus. Most of our children have been in our programs since infancy, which creates a genuine and authentic connection between our community of children and families. Our families have been great supporters of our outdoor classroom and appreciate all that we do to connect our children with nature. We are able to offer children a beautiful, natural yard with large mature trees, a dry creek bed, six fruit trees, five garden beds that children plant seasonally with vegetables and herbs, as well as a natural gazebo and many “cabins” that the children have created and use for open-ended dramatic play. In addition, we have a dedicated digging area with water and real tools for children to explore water and mud, an outdoor eating area where snack and lunch are served, and space for large and small group games and sports such as handball, basketball, and soccer.
On any given afternoon you will find children climbing in the dry creek bed, searching for special rocks and balancing on larger rocks. You may find children and teachers up to their knees in a hole full of mud (with their mud boots on!), or creating channels of water with the hand pump. There will definitely be children playing handball or basketball, as well as being engaged in a group game on the field. Friday afternoon dodge ball with children and teachers is a favorite!
The three “cabins” and gazebo in the outdoor classroom will be abuzz with activity. Children may be creating their own potions or perfumes in the natural gazebo with herbs and flowers from our outdoor classroom. There will likely be a group dressing up and creating their own elaborate dramatic play in a smaller “cabin” in the yard, as well as a group building and fixing things in the original and largest “cabin” under the Sycamore tree. If it is snack time, groups of children will be serving themselves and eating at the wooden picnic tables outside, and many children may be building complicated ramps or structures with a variety of building materials on the patio.
At UCI Extended Day, children learn how to respect themselves, others and their environment. By offering children a natural and supportive environment, we aim to help children connect with nature both inside and outside, to feel a sense of belonging, to learn to care for others and to grow their stewardship skills. Our commitment is to foster a sense of wonder about nature, and to encourage kindness and gentleness toward all the forms of life that inhabit it, along with a deep understanding of and desire to take care of it.
6537 Adobe Circle Road
Irvine, CA 92617