Nature Explore is a collaborative project of the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation.
“When children are given the opportunity to experience God’s perfect Classroom, they become invested in it and want to be good stewards of it. It is in the Outdoor classroom they discover their own God-given talents and gifts as there’s time to ponder.”- Pam Musburger, Director
It started with a vision – We created a space in God’s perfect classroom where children ages infancy through five can experience science, math, literature, music, and art in nature. Research shows regular time in nature supports whole-child learning and the development of foundational key skills. Our school is dedicated to increasing the quantity, quality, and benefit of outdoor experiences for children. Knowing that virtually every aspect of the development of the human brain is shaped by experience, we embrace active learning and honor our students’ sense of wonder through an emergent curriculum.
The entrance features our outdoor classroom that opens through a pathway into a wondrous space for exploration, discovery, and imagination. Children are stimulated visually by the vast amount and variety of fruit-bearing dwarf trees and flowers. Plants were chosen so that the children’s play yard is continually in bloom. Textures and smells were also considered in the design. Bird houses and feeders aid in luring a variety of indigenous birds to the classroom for the children to observe.
The water pump facilitates exploration of cause and effect, problem-solving strategies, teamwork, and positive social interactions. Lambs Ear plants line the sides of the creek. Native river rocks were gathered and used for the creek while an iron water pump allows children to enjoy the essence of water in their classroom.
In our farmers market, you will find oranges, apples, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, Concord and Thompson grapes, kumquats, strawberries pumpkins, snap peas and corn depending on the season. Our little farmers till the soil, plant seedling and harvest throughout the year. The whole foods are incorporated into our snacks. The students learn to take care of their bodies and also learn the life cycle of the plant.
Children explore the world through their senses. The sand area provides both a wet and dry sensory experience that encourages creativity and imagination. Visual-spatial learners have designed “winding rivers” and constructed “dams” with bridges in the sand area.
Our future architects are very busy down in the bottom of the creek constructing with the wet sand.
Children develop body control and knowledge of the natural world through gross motor movement. The large grass action area provides an open space for running, skipping, galloping on horses and rolling their bodies down the hill. Teachers facilitate organized games and children are allowed free choice.
We have a variety of natural instruments in our music and movement area including a West African djembe, and wooden xylophone. Students learn about sound, pitch, rhythm, and tonality. Impromptu bands and soloists are discovered on a daily basis.
Our literacy stage is multi-functional it is used for gatherings, music, puppet shows and of course literacy. Where the Wild Things Are is a favorite book of our students to read, make the props and act out the story.
Heavy Work Area
The construction of forts using stumps, sticks, and small logs, rolling natural objects down child created chutes using gutters, and elaborate “fire pits” are all pre-math skills. While constructing they learn about length, area, perimeter and volume. Children practice problem-solving, collaboration and using higher level thinking – an area identified as challenging in today’s work environment.
Open Art Studio
Toddlers develop their visual-spatial and gross motor skills as they navigate through the flagstone path that is nestled in the miniature boxwood trees.
Our garden that lines the perimeter of our campus is a certified Monarch Waystation. Monarch Waystations provide milkweeds, nectar plants, and shelter for monarchs throughout their annual cycle of reproduction and migration. Our students enjoy observing the life cycle as well as caring for the butterfly habitat.
Messy Art Area
In our outdoor classroom students are provided a variety of natural materials to create open-ended works of art. Three-dimensional works are created through the use of clay, shells sticks pods, rocks and other assorted treasures.
The Outdoor Classroom has created a sense of community and ownership among our families. The annual family workday invites all ages to participate and fall in love with God’s perfect classroom. As a demonstration site in developmentally-based early childhood education and a pioneer in the practices of the Outdoor Classroom, we serve as a model for other schools and offer guidance as a certified nature explorer program. The outdoor classroom is utilized by local colleges, California State University Channel Islands, Moorpark College, and University of Laverne to educate student teachers on the value of connecting children to nature. Local Boy Scouts use the classroom to complete their Eagle Scout projects.
Did You Know?….
- Children who played outside every day, regardless of weather, had better motor coordination and more ability to concentrate.
- Being close to nature, in general, helps boost a child’s attention span.
- Studies of children in playgrounds with both green and manufactured play areas found that children engage in more creative forms of play in the green areas.
- Natural play strengthens children’s self-confidence and arouses their senses – their awareness of the world and all that moves in it, seen and unseen.
“Environment-based education produces student gains in social studies, science, language arts, and math; improves standardized test scores and grade-point averages; and develops skills in problem-solving, critical thinking, and decision-making.” – Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods