The Nature Explore Classroom at Beard Special Education Center
Beard Special Education Center is the first certified Nature Explore Classroom located within a special education center serving children with severe autism and profound social-emotional disorders.
There are 166 students in attendance at Beard School who range from grades pre-K to 3rd. All of the students have unique learning styles which require creative and dynamic teaching strategies.
Seeking to reach the whole child, the school community has worked to create a non-traditional classroom that incorporates standards-based learning, social emotional learning, and functional living skills within a safe and healthy outdoor environment. Students will develop learning skills such as observation, concentration, problem solving, science and math concepts, imagination and creativity.
Clear, appealing, student friendly terms were chosen for each of the areas that help children remember the purpose of the space and engage in appropriate activities. The outdoor classroom is conducive to providing a complete mix of engaging activities for children with a variety of needs and learning styles.
Several special dedications are integrated in the outdoor garden. An arched arbor, draped in trumpet vines, welcomes students and guests. A plaque dedicating the garden to their principal who recently passed away is place there. A butterfly garden in the Gathering Area has been dedicated to a teacher assistant who has worked in the school system for fifty years. This area serves as a centering place where teachers can talk to their students about what they will be doing that day and meet there again afterwards to reflect on and celebrate their garden visit.
A Pizza Garden, Sensory (herb) Garden and Vegetable Soup Garden are included among the five raised planter beds within the Pathways through Plantings Area. Adjacent to these raised beds is the Music and Movement Area. This is a wonderful space for language development and self expression. A row of small evergreen trees create a natural backdrop behind the stage while four wooden benches provide seating in the front. Within each of the recommended areas needed for certification, there are multiple activities and benefits for the students.
This successful classroom is a result of partnerships with many organizations and volunteers. Donations of time, talent and treasure have come from a wide variety of people including; the school community and neighborhood, local and city businesses, a neighborhood church, alocal high school and college, fire station, the alderman’s office, non-profit foundations and organizations and many friends.