The Nature Explore Classroom at Children's Developmental Services of Campbell County Nature's Nook
After first learning about the Nature Explore program at a 2010 conference, Children's Developmental Services staff were excited to have direction in developing an underutilized courtyard.
Together, staff worked on naming, designing and implementing the ideas from the Learning with Nature Idea Book. An introduction to the Nature Explore concept was unveiled during an annual open house. The very next day, several families brought in a variety of donations.
Nature's Nook has been personalized by all the donations that have come from families, staff and local businesses. There are two large flowerbeds on the playground which allow the children to help plant seeds in the spring and harvest the seeds in the fall. The flowers naturally bring bees into the area and the children are intrigued with what the bees do with the flowers.
Stumps, in varied heights, give children a challenge and an opportunity to develop their gross motor skills. The children are able to uncover treasures in the dirt-digging area. This area is covered with mats to attract worms and slugs which the children enjoy discovering.
Cedar posts and decorative bricks help to border and define the areas and each area is labeled with a wooden sign. Sunflowers and willows soften the chain-linked fence that separates the courtyard from the public sidewalk.
Katy Knez, Instructional Assistant states, "When the children are in Nature's Nook, they have a high level of engagement. Some of the most popular activities are: digging for worms, looking for slugs, building with the "messy materials", climbing the stumps, watering the gardens and flower bed, and observing the flowers and vegetables grow".