The Nature Explore Classroom at Westwood Early Childhood Center
An interactive collage invites children and families to add “nature treasures” found during any experience that they've enjoyed in nature.
As parents stop by to pick up their children at Westwood Early Childhood Center, something wonderful happens. By watching closely and observing their own child’s activity, they begin to engage in activity with their child and then with others.
As Westwood teachers observed and shared children’s daily experiences in the outdoor classroom, it led to the desire to extend those experiences to include families and the community and slowly evolved into the Family Nature Walk program. An interactive collage invites the addition of “nature treasures” found during any experience that they’ve enjoyed in nature.
Through clean-up and enhancements, each area was transformed to create a place for children to play, be creative and to use their imagination. A wish list was set up for each season to enrich the outdoor classroom with donated items. As a season arrives, new items are added and the children observe the seasonal changes while practicing caretaking and developing nurturing behavior.
Nature Explore Classrooms are very adaptable to change and new ideas; as the following example shows. Scrap wood was painted with chalkboard paint and the children used white chalk to write the name of each area. This was found to not be durable through the changing seasons of Minnesota, so a different type of sign was designed.
A wide variety of areas provides children with a place to run, jump, dance, and play games. Incorporating natural materials provides many opportunities for children to learn about the colors, shapes, textures and patterns of nature.