The Nature Explore Classroom at Hurlburt Field Child Development Center
It has been three years since the Hurlburt Field Child Development Center completed their Nature Explore Classroom.
While continually adding more and more to the classroom, this space teaches children and staff about the wonders of nature. The Loripetalum shrubs have grown substantially during this time to define and separate areas. They give children interesting colors of red and green during the summer with blooms of pink during the spring. Mulch and pine needles have created an aesthetically appealing look and feel to the classroom while helping control weeds and better define spaces.
A "Grow a Garden Day" is held each year along with a "Nature Appreciation Day". All parents are invited to join their children in planting seeds and helping clean up the garden areas. The Toddlers planted sunflower seeds as well as other plants that grew and flourished. Most exciting was the 8 foot tall sunflowers that grew on the playground. These were beautiful and helped to encourage the children's counting and measuring skills.
Additional enhancements were: pipe drums to the Music and Movement Area; tree branches and palm ferns to the Building Area; a compost bin and three rain barrels to the Gardening Area; and gourd bird houses made by the children.
An insect collection was started from the insects collected in the Nature Explore Classroom. The children learned to identify and classify insects as well as butterflies. The nature pond, behind the center, was renovated this past year and is now 8 foot by 8 foot with a smaller pond that flowing into the larger pond. This feature allows children an opportunity to explore the science aspects of nature as they observe tad poles growing into frogs and fish eating algae. Water samples are taken each month and PH and oxygen levels are tracked. Children enjoy feeding and drawing the fish in this beautiful space.
Various nature classes and activities have been held throughout the year to educate families on the importance of connecting with nature on a daily basis and taking care of the environment. Hurlburt Field CDC takes pride in the enthusiasm of their parent volunteers who are very generous with their time and have a great desire to be involved in their children's lives and their school. These 242 families and their children have been changed forever through the Nature Explore Classroom and the outdoor education program that they take part in at the center. Since the program began, the behavior problems in the school have decreased by 30% and the parents have noticed a change in their children. The children are more interested in the outdoors and the creatures that live in it and have a desire to go outside and explore their outdoor environment!