The Nature Explore Classroom at Dodge Nature Preschool



We love spending time in our outdoor classroom! Most of the changes in our space this year were the result of needed maintenance due to aging of equipment and the impact of our extreme Minnesota weather. We accomplished a lot.

We were able to sustain our outdoor space this year through the generous support of longtime funders and many volunteers.

We would like to thank our funders for their financial support to restore our storage sheds, wooden climbers, and sandbox edging. We would also like to thank David Born for constructing a durable, year-round chicken coop in our outdoor classroom. This provides a safe night-time roost for our three resident chickens. A "thank you" also goes to the team of volunteers that constructed preschool-sized benches for us to use in the gathering spaces. We would also like to thank the many preschool families who volunteer their time to maintain our playground gardens. Pruning a willow hut it a big job! (It even requires a ladder) Our in-house maintenance team improved the doors on our outdoor storage closets so that they can better endure Minnesota winters. Teachers worked to hang a parachute to create a shady spot on our platform climber. One of our training highlights was a class about phenology led by one of Dodge's naturalists. This helped us pay closer attention to what we notice in the natural world from day to day.


Each season brought new discoveries in our outdoor classroom. This last winter was very cold and snowy. Our maintenance team created big piles of snow for children to climb up, slide down and keep warm by moving their bodies. Spring brought us to our gardens where children planted beans, kale, peas, potatoes and various flowers. Summer is full of opportunities in our outdoor space. This summer, we paid special attention to children's play with sand and water. One of our assistant teachers documented children's play and inquiry in our sandbox. We observed engineering skills at work as they built rivers, bridges, and tunnels. Fantasy play focused around pretending to cook and sell food at our "lemonade stand." This fall, the children have been enjoying harvesting the gardens. There has also been a lot of collaborative pretend play focused around the various "house" features that we have in our outdoor classroom, such as the log cabin and our willow hut.


Marty Watson, Director