The Nature Explore Classroom at Discovery Child Care Centre
Discovery Child Care Centre is the first certified Nature Explore Classroom in Canada and the first certified site located outside of the United States.
They serve as a wonderful inspiration for others that may want to create similar spaces at their own sites.
This space all started with involving families in the nature classroom planning. A committee of family members, staff and management all joined in the planning, implementing and building of the Nature Explore Classroom.
Many family gatherings are held in the classroom such as: Teddy Bear Picnics, Valentine's teas, Fun Fairs, graduation parties and so much more. The Centre's Family Handbook has a full page dedicated to explaining their belief that being outdoors in beautiful, natural environments is an essential experience for all children. At Discovery Child Care Centre, children are given the opportunity to interact daily with materials found in nature and in the process become thoughtful stewards of the earth we share.
Areas in this large play space have been divided with low hedges, low planter boxes, pathways and changing surfaces. Elm, oak, maple, ash and pine trees provide homes for living creatures, shade and an abundance of leaf shapes to investigate. A tree house has been designed around a beautiful maple. Fabric adds a splash of color to the canopy of this tree house and to the sand box.
Multiple gardens have been created which include both perennial and annual plants in a variety of colors, shapes, seasonal interest, scents and textures. Children helped with planting the meadow, willow hut and all of the ornamental and vegetable gardens.
Nature blocks and tree cookies are included in the Building Area while rocks, twigs, pine cones and sea shells find a home in the Nature Art Area. The Messy Materials Area is filled with logs, sticks, bark, rocks, and stones and the tree house is a combination of wooden slats and items from nature.
Ongoing informative emails and newsletters are sent to families about the Nature Explore Classroom and what the children are learning in this wonderful space, the importance of connecting children with nature, and ideas for them to do at home as well. Monthly "discover cards" are sent home for families. These are cards that explain the value of play and include a picture of their child in one of the Areas. Families are invited to join in the annual spring planting and to visit the classroom anytime to stay and play with their child.