The Nature Explore Classroom at
The Scarbrough Center

on the campus of Southeast Technical Institute


The Scarbrough Center is the first Certified Nature Explore Classroom in the state of South Dakota!

Tree Blocks

When starting plans for their outdoor classroom, The Scarbrough Center on the campus of Southeast Technical Institute consulted with Nature Explore to develop their site based on needs and wants, putting them all down on paper. Work then began on plans utilizing the Landscape Design class on campus. After picking a design plan that worked for the site, the students at Southeast Tech started building and putting together the outdoor classroom. Work has continued for the last 5 years with lots of hard work and the additions of many components. Grants and service projects were awarded to Scarbrough to accomplish most all of the design.

Trees and perennials were planted throughout the entire nature classroom. Small willow trees were used to make a tunnel with future plans in place to make a small hut. Safe and easily maintainable tall grass, lambs ear, hosta and day lilies give texture and color to the areas. Logs and stumps have been placed throughout the classroom to give it a natural feeling. Signs are used to identify the names of each of the areas while helping children to remember the layout of the space and empowering them to make their own plans to engage in different kinds of activities.

The Nature Explore Classroom was originally started five years ago with sturdy, quality items. The stage, benches, sandboxes and fence have all held up well. A maintenance and landscape team on campus helps with upkeep, adding mulch throughout the year and repairing items as needed.

There is a natural beauty throughout the playground. The use of trees, perennials, stumps, logs and equipment all add to a pleasing environment. Fabric and wind chimes on the playground and in arch ways are also used to define areas and make it more beautiful.

One of the most interesting things on the playground is the arbor and fence, made by the horticulture class on campus, used to divide the toddler playground from the rest of the playground. The class found many components locally and then incorporated them into the classroom. Large rocks and a variety of different types of tree branches were used to make the playground look unique. They also found a huge tree in which they carved an opening for the children to play in, resembling a small tree house. The staff made stepping stones to personalize the classroom. Pots and pans for music and easels on the fence and different materials were added to keep the children interested.

Informative flyers and newsletters are sent home with the families throughout the course of the year. All families are informed about the Nature Explore Classroom during their initial parent visit to stress the importance of using the outdoor classroom and why Scarbrough feels it is important for children to be outdoors. A parent night in the outdoor classroom is being planned for the spring to promote literacy and spending time outdoors!