The Nature Explore Classroom at
James R. Russell Child Development Center
at Creighton University
With a variety of different areas in the Nature Explore Classroom, children attending the James R. Russell CDC have opportunities to participate in many different activities.
These may include quiet or noisy play, large and small motor activities, cognitive and creative activities and always various ways to appreciate nature. At staff meetings, ways to enhance and refine the space are discussed. Many additions and changes come about from a mix of ideas from parents and teachers. Elements are made of as many natural materials as possible and create a welcoming and playful space. Parent volunteers help with Nature Classroom maintenance.
This year, logs were added to the Digging Area to help with definition and to keep the dirt in that space. It was found that the tree tunnel was blocking visual of the digging area, so it was moved to fix the problem and to enhance the Messy Materials Area. The new tunnel replaced the sensory berm (that was being crushed by little feet). In the winter it was covered with buffalo grass to create a snow tunnel. In the summer, vining plants, like squash and pumpkins were added to maintain a natural look and to keep children engaged.
Each plant is chosen to stand up to the activities of young children, to be visually interesting and also to be low maintenance. The flowering plants, picking flowers and various decorative plants help enrich the overall vision of the classroom. A wonderful success of the year was the addition of butterfly garden plants. So many butterflies came during the summer that the caterpillars ate every leaf on the bush until it was down to only branches!
A monthly Family Day Activity was added this year and was met with a great response from parents. Most activities take place in the Nature Explore Classroom at pick up time. Some examples include making bubbles, coloring with chalk, and a really fun activity where teachers cover the slide with paper, have parents and children sit at the top of the slide, then dip golf balls in paint and roll them down the slide and into a bucket.
International Mud Day was celebrated with all the classes creating a mud activity. The preschool room planned whole body mud where the children dressed in swim suits and water shoes and had the option to cover their entire bodies in mud that they helped create in the digging area.
James R. Russell Child Development Center at Creighton University has created an amazing place for children to connect with nature on a daily basis and to become future stewards of our earth!