At Ascension, we place a strong emphasis on educating the whole child as we create unique results-oriented experiences both in and beyond the classroom. We have seen the many benefits our children experience through the Organic Teaching Garden, and it is our desire to expand this capability by creating nature-based play and learning spaces throughout the campus. Partnering with Nature Explore to develop these spaces ensures that we are applying research-based, field-tested design principles to create a nature-rich outdoor learning environment that our entire student body can benefit from.
The goal of the Nature Explore program, a collaborative program of the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation, is to help nature become an integral, joyful part of children’s daily learning. Nature Explore Classrooms established across the country have shown to be highly effective in accomplishing this goal. On May 29, and May 30, a specially trained Nature Explore designer and education specialist team came to work with Ascension Lutheran School in a two-day design consultation to develop a unique concept plan that embodies the research-based guiding principles and specific vision and goals of Ascension Lutheran School. Staff and educators had the opportunity to attend a Nature Explore workshop that focused on using the outdoor classroom and age-appropriate methods for reconnecting children with nature on a daily basis.
The resulting deliverable of this two-day workshop was a detailed concept plan by their landscape architect designed specifically with the needs of Ascension in mind. We hope to begin implementing the plan this summer with the first area of focus being the space in front of the kindergarten classrooms. This will not only provide a safe and engaging play and exploration area for our younger students, but our older grades will also utilize the space for observation, group work, and science learning.
In 2010, our Early Childhood Center was the 4th preschool in California to receive Nature ExploreCertification. The program has since expanded to include 375 certified sites throughout the nation, 19 of those being elementary and middle school campuses. Having experienced the benefits here at the Early Childhood Center, Ascension is again leading the way as an early adopter in the state of California for elementary and middle school campuses.
The Nature Explore initiative will unite us as an entire campus as members of our church and school will all benefit from the beautiful areas. We also feel passionately that Nature Explore will help enforce every aspect of our vision of helping students to lead, inspire, and serve – to serve as they care for God’s creation, to be inspired by the beauty and vastness of that creation, and to grow as leaders as they explore their talents in dynamic, nature-based learning spaces. Watch this summer for updates as we move through this process!