The Nature Explore Classroom at
University Presbyterian Children’s Center
Since 1971, the University Presbyterian Children’s Center (UPCC) has provided early learning experiences and care for children between 7 ½ months to 5 years of age from a variety of backgrounds.
UPCC has been continually accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children since 1987. The center has always had two extensive playgrounds, one for infants and toddlers and one for the preschoolers, filled with shade trees, large areas of sand, bike paths, small gardens and play structures for the children to explore. Beginning in 2014, the entire staff attended training on nature education, including the Nature Explore Leadership Institute, and a transformation of the outside areas began with a vote among the staff and parents to name the preschool space “The Explorers’ Yard” and the infant/toddler area “Little Explorers’ Yard” with an intentional focus on nature with:
• an entryway sign made by the children with nature items to “Welcome Friends”
• a “Mud Kitchen” with cooking utensils, muffin tins and more used with a water supply for wet sand and mud to serve in the “Mud Diner”
• a large area for “Garden Exploration” with the addition of a bridge and stepping stones through native grasses as well as a butterfly garden and small herb gardens to use with the mud kitchen creations, for science and sensory exploration and for families to take samples home
• ephemeral “Art Exploration” area with stones, twigs, leaves and other nature items of for creative expression
• tree logs as stools and stepping stones for large motor experiences
• areas for “Sand Exploration” with large trucks for moving supplies, flowing water to create rivers in the sand as well as rocks and sticks for dams
• “Explore Loose Parts” area with tree logs, large rocks, large sticks, bamboo and fabric for the children to build and create with their vast imaginations
• with beautifully landscaped areas around the school and church as well as the neighboring university, the classes regularly take nature walks, have picnics and explore the “Beyond Space” outside the fenced yard
• two large arched mesquite tree logs for “Climbing Exploration” for the children to experience climbing a tree – an opportunity that is missing for many children today
Throughout the year, the staff regularly plan outdoor activities on the “Explorers’ Yard”, the “Little Explorers’ Yard” and the beautifully landscaped areas around the school and church for the families to explore in nature during the Open House, Family Socials, Fall Fest, Spring Break-fest and Annual Family Picnic. Known for its outdoor spaces, UPCC regularly hosts early childhood students from local universities and educators from other schools to observe the nature curriculum provided in the UPCC classrooms and outdoor spaces.
With its commitment to a high-quality early childhood program and curriculum, both inside and outside, inspired by and immersed in nature, UPCC hopes that those that pass through the gates, no matter their age or background, discover a connection or re-connection to the beauty and gift of nature around them.
San Antonio, TX 78212