The Nature Explore Classroom at WestLake Child Development Center


WestLake Child Development Center continues to provide an enriching educational experience for our preschool, prekindergarten, kindergarten and now summer camp children.


Art Area

Our weekly garden exploration provides the children a fun filled opportunity to get their hands dirty, dig for worms, become nature detectives, read a good book, count seeds, play jump the stump, enjoy a healthy snack and so much more! We have now incorporated our garden program into our Spring Break and Summer Camp activities for our school age children.

At WestLake we believe our outdoor space is a learning experience and guided discovery for our children not just a landscape feature. Therefore, there should be times that the garden is allowed to become a bit "wild". Often it is during this wild period that exciting plants and animals are discovered. Every year we purposely leave the tomato plants growing in the garden well past the point we are actually harvesting tomatoes to eat. The purpose for leaving the tomato plants in the garden is to wait for tomato hornworms!

Objectives of the garden lesson:

  • The life cycle of a moth.
  • 4 stages of metamorphosis , egg, larva, pupa and adult
  • Introduction of the word camouflage as students are asked to look a caterpillar that is exactly the same color as the tomato plants leaves and stems
  • Close observation of a hornworms body using a magnifying glass

Student's reactions:

  • Hunting for a hidden tomato hornworm caterpillar that matches the tomato leaf is exciting!
  • When students do find the caterpillars they squeal with excitement!
  • Students are taught how to use a magnifying glass for detailed observations and they are encouraged to touch the caterpillar's body and describe the texture
  • Students say things like "It is squishy!" "It's soft!"
  • When the caterpillar crawls we count the number of legs
  • We watch the caterpillar eat leaves
  • We measure the length of the caterpillar's body

Art Area

Some special aspects of our garden include the beautiful vegetable garden, where we are always harvesting seasonal vegetables; the herb garden, the butterfly garden, and our peach tree that produces the juiciest southern peaches. Also special, is the lovely color in an outdoor classroom which is provided by the very talented children of WestLake Child Development Center.

A special thanks to Stephanie Baker, Master Gardner, who always makes our outdoor classroom warm and welcoming and creates such amazing learning opportunities for our children! Plus, a huge a thank you! to the WestLake teachers who continue to make our outdoor classroom an extension of learning for children and embracing the love of nature into our program!

Darla Fontana, Director