The Nature Explore Classroom at Scott County Family YMCA Learning Center



This is the second Nature Explore Classroom by the Scott County Family Y to achieve certification. The first site is located at the Palmer Learning Center at 724 Harrison Street.

Being fortunate to have a very large playground, it was easy to design the space into all the areas needed for certification and also have room enough to incorporate supplemental areas such as a dramatic play area, a book reading area, an area for games requiring bases, and an area for children to ride wheeled toys.

Each of the areas is delineated with a carved, wooden sign and sits on a large tree branch post. Using clear, simple names for each area allows children and staff to understand activities being explained by happy, excited voices. The Gathering Area has been lovingly named "Let's Get Together" while the relaxing and quiet Reading Area is called "Book Nook". Storage has been placed strategically in several areas holds materials and keeps them looking good.

The Y is very fortunate to be associated with a Camp that sits on 240 acres of adjacent land. This easily accessible, forested land was the source of wonderful, low maintenance materials for the playground. All of the signs, the tables in the art area, the sun dial, the bases for the game area and all of the stumps used for chairs were made from materials received from the camp.

The garden area is filled with child-friendly plants for the children to explore such as lambs ear and mint for the children to explore. The plants and flowers in the garden are indigenous to the Davenport Iowa area. Children and staff are encouraged at all times to bring in materials of interest to add to the playground. The building area is equipped with natural wood blocks as well as small bricks.

All components of commercial equipment on the playground are checked on a monthly basis to ensure safety.

Large trees provide shade while their limbs hold wind chimes and interesting bird feeders that gently welcome feathered friends. The fence for the playground is chain link but slats have been added to soften the institutional feel and to create an oasis of nature within an urban downtown location.

Newsletters are sent home to parents discussing the value of the Nature Explore Classroom and the importance of children being outside. In September, a full day of work on the playground was facilitated by the United Way Day of Caring. 65 families were invited to join in and help create the outdoor classroom. A Healthy Kids Day event will be planned each year, showcasing the Nature Explore Classroom and the value of outdoor play.

"The well-defined areas on the playground shout 'come and play!' to our children. They are exciting areas where a child's imagination can run free as they explore and create!"

Brent Ayers, Associate Executive Director of Child Care and Family Services