The Nature Explore Classroom at
Live and Learn Early Learning Center
Over the past year, we intentionally focused on our school age and kindergarten outdoor classrooms.
We wanted to give a strong nature based identity to our school age program and distinguish it from the younger programs. The kids chose Camp Rising Hawk as their identity and the teachers invested hours intentionally planning the areas of the outdoor classroom. We redesigned the water feature by adding a water wall, which conveniently runs behind the mud pit. The building area was joined by the architect and construction area so that the children could design and build their own tree house. I had promised that when there were two floors they could put in a zip line. Now we have a 70' zip line from the tree house to the ground. In redesigning this area, we added a hammock rest area and a swing made from an old skate board. To extend the time periods that we can use the outdoor classroom we built hoop houses covered with greenhouse plastic. Our 4.5 to 6 year old group has instituted Forest Fridays where they spend the entire day every Friday in the outdoor classroom.
Ongoing maintenance included thinning the willow trees which added great supplies to the natural building areas. Forsythia bushes were trimmed and the bushes over the rattling bridge were shaped into a tunnel. A wooden bench swing in the toddler outdoor classroom was replaced with Nature Explore Tree House Fabric, which quickly became hammocks. We intentionally looked at adding the outdoor classroom philosophy and use to the orientation of every family, staff member and classroom. We have found that annually reviewing our philosophy and goals around outdoor learning is a way of staying connected every day.
To maintain an outdoor classroom you have to see the entire project as an on-going process that you re-visit and tweak on a regular basis. Our family events continue to be held outdoors in the outdoor classrooms from lunches, theater, music concert to hay ride. The gardens planted by the children continued to be a community garden, where any family could take home fresh veggies on days we harvested. We start by building a "caring" for the natural area around us and a "want" to be outside from day one.
Johanna Booth-Miner, Director/Owner