The Nature Explore Classroom at
Your Little Artist Preschool
I began my dream of having an outdoor classroom over 10 years ago before nature classrooms were a “thing” recognized in everyday, neighborhood childcare programs. I was seeing the benefits of spending hours each day outside with my own child, both for my parenting and her wellbeing, and wanted that for my teaching career as well.
While completing my AAS in Early Childhood Education from Southern Maine Community College I was asked to design a classroom, make a blueprint and include all learning domains outlined by the Maine Early Learning Guidelines. I decided to create a classroom with complete access to the outdoors at all times with learning objectives being met specifically by the outdoor environment. There was an emphasis on indoor environments and catalogs provided to furnish our indoor spaces but I wanted to dream of a space where children could be comfortable, happy and engaged for many hours outside.
In 2017 I decided to open a creative based childcare program in my home. I asked parents in their enrollment packet if their child liked to play outside. Parents reported that they wanted more outside time for their children. Seeing that this was a priority for families, I decided to make this a main focus of my program. It became an intentional part of our day to go on nature walks, play on the swing set and bring found natural objects inside to play or create artwork with. In September 2019 I moved my family & childcare program to a larger space and
began work on our Nature Explore Classroom in our spacious backyard. Parents have expressed enthusiasm for our program’s focus by saying:
“The outdoor classroom methodology is [another] plus” -Dana 2020
“[YLA is] an environment that fosters creativity and learning through structured
activity as well as the freedom to explore and experiment.” -Christie 2019
This year (2020) more than even it has been crucial to be outside with children for their physical and mental health. While many schools as early as PreK move to full virtual learning I am grateful I was nearing completion on our Nature Explore classroom and my students could explore outside for hours each day. For families who choose to enroll their school-age children here instead of virtual learning options, I am proud to have 0 screen time for children under age 7 & over age 7 less than 2 hours a day for educational purposes only. The children are not bored or asking “what can I do”, they are engaged in a living environment with moveable large
and small parts to fully immerse themselves in learning through play.
I owe my children, Gabbie, Ben & Ian my deep gratitude for sharing their home and their mom with many other children, for loving them like siblings, for shoveling wood chips, driving the Dingo, nailing signs, cleaning up after the dogs and all the other things they do every day. Most notably I have to thank my husband for his endless support both physical labor and holding my hand through the emotional parts of making this dream a reality.
Portland, ME 04106
Spiral hanging mobile inspired by periwinkle shells, collaboration children ages 3-4, driftwood, clay & thread.
Children playing in Trout Brook Stream which is located at the end of the street, we walk here at least weekly.