The Nature Explore Classroom at Islip Early Head Start
With 72 enrolled infants and toddlers that utilize the Nature Explore Classroom throughout the day, the Long Island Head Start has meticulously prepared an inspiring outdoor classroom to strengthen the student's knowledge, abilities, and skills in all developmental areas while benefiting from the natural setting.
In the Music and Movement Area, the children are learning about sound, pitch, rhythm and tonality. The center is using a variety of musical instruments, including a marimba. This unique instrument features a two-octave range, tuned to a C diatonic scale. Additions this year include natural rattles for the infants, slap drums and more rain sticks. Dancing scarves encourage creative expression, body competence and spatial awareness.
The Building Area has natural architectural blocks which encourages the children to create varied and interesting structures. Children can build with both geometric and organic shapes: strengthening mathematical, visual-spatial and abstract thinking. The area also contains mirror blocks that enhance creative construction abilities. Push-n-pull cars were added this year which give crawlers a natural push toy to grip and wheel around.
The Action Area has wonderful hand peeled ponderosa pine posts and railings. This is a wonderful place where children have the opportunity to balance themselves, climb, crawl and run.
The Sand Area is one of the most important elements of the play space. A sand pit offers the wild play opportunities of the beach, which is regional to Long Island. Babies and toddlers learn about their world by using their senses, and the sand play is an excellent way to teach little ones about sensory exploration. This area has a wide variety of buckets, shovels and other sand toys.
In the Nature Art Area, teachers place shells, pine cones and leaves on the art tables with magnifying glasses that help the children look closely at nature's details. Clipboards were added to enhance early literacy development as the children draw and write about what they see. Mirrored observation trays are also used for the children to study and compare objects. Painting easels and slates allow children to use their imagination to create all types of art.
Children and their parents planted tomatoes, cilantro and various herbs in raised planter beds. These were chosen to be reflective of the community. Armed with watering cans and garden tools, the children help the teachers maintain the garden. Outdoor storage units are used to store all the gardening tools.
As many non-profits know, volunteers are the heart of any organization. Islip Early Head Start quickly learned the truth behind this statement. During the past few seasons, the volunteer program at Islip Early Head Start has grown tremendously. These volunteers assist staff members and help with seasonal clean up. They have created signs and donated materials, perennial flowers, mulch, gardening tools, vegetables and herbs for the outdoor classroom. 20 families, local community stores, Home Depot and K-Mart all support the outdoor classroom now.
Many families answered the call to help with Spring clean-up and to prepare for the Open House in June. Parents brought in lawn mowers, weed whackers, shovels, brooms, and gardening tools to assist.
"When the project was finished, you could see the pride in the families that their children would have a beautiful place to play and learn while they were at school."
- Dawn Melchiona, Early Head Start and Training Manager.