The Nature Explore Classroom at Pinedale Children's Learning Center
Children at the Pinedale Children's Learning Center often begin their day in the outdoor classroom and tend to spend most of their day outside enjoying the many natural features.
The program helps to bring nature into children's daily learning in a way that is sustainable, significant, positive and joyful.
Spaces are defined and labeled with wooden sign with content decided on by the children. Additional materials are regularly added to each of the areas to help increase learning opportunities. Flat rocks, pinecones, leaves and log pieces were added. Many natural materials were found by the children on a nature walk.
Original native shrubs, bushes and trees continue to grow and flourish in the outdoor classroom. The children plant a garden annually as a school project. Vegetables and wildflowers were chosen due to the short growing season. Families come by with their children all summer long to weed and then harvest the garden. A greenhouse was purchased to serve as an additional yearlong opportunity to learn about science and nature. This year, wildflowers were added to the "live" roof. Shrubs, trees and the lawn are fertilized regularly by a professional landscaper to maximize growth. The classroom receives fresh snow regularly which enhances the beauty of the space during the winter months.
After completing an entire unit about fish, the children worked with artist Diana Baumback, from the University of Wyoming, to learn about developing their own fish design. The children helped to create a sculpture known as the "School of Fish" that is part of the outdoor landscape. Parents attended an art dedication with their children to help celebrate this incredible addition to the outdoor learning environment which is located on the corner of Franklin and Charles across from the town fishing pond. Special thanks goes to the Wyoming Community Foundation-Sublette, Town of Pinedale, Shell and Pinedale Fine Art Council for their help and support.
Families are always invited and encouraged to stay as long as possible. The annual camping day was held again in September. Families and children arrived with tents and other camping gear. They spent the entire day outside. Children and families participated in numerous outdoor educational activities.
The space is relicensed annually by the Wyoming Department of Family Services and certified by The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Staff will be attending the NAEYC 2013 Annual Conference this year in Washington DC.