The Nature Explore Classroom at St. Ambrose University Children’s Campus
The idea for a Nature Explore Classroom was introduced at a St. Ambrose University Parent's Council meeting in the fall of 2008. The response was positive!
All families jumped right in and were part of the efforts to move forward with the dream of providing a place where children could have positive experiences with nature. A list was made that included the headings: to do, to purchase, to collect, and to build.
The school's goal was to create an outdoor learning experience in which the children would have a daily opportunity to experience the world and all of its natural wonders. Cracking open a milk weed pod to release the feathery seeds, watching a robin tirelessly build its nest and discovering the diversity of life housed in a single tree were experiences they realized helped children to understand the interconnectedness and beauty of our world. The staff believes that these interactions cannot be reproduced indoors, on a computer or on video.
Areas were established using equipment, nature, and the elements already present in the play space. An effort was made to separate loud areas from quiet areas and delineate those areas with natural items or structures included in the design.
Many plantings were added including trees, bushes, flowers, seasonal items and perennials. Cat tails, pussy willows, drift wood and a worm box are just some of the many natural items included in this amazing site.
"The Beehive", as it has been named, has many distinct areas that were named by the preschool children and their teachers. A parent provided the wooden sign, a staff member "wood burned" the name on it and the director and her husband stained and hung all of the signs. Now that's teamwork!
Unique items such as tall grasses, vines, fabric over a pergola, wind chimes, windsocks, bird feeders and a rain gauge all help maximize beauty and visual clarity of the over-all design. The overall vision is filled with nature, but also the beautiful work that local artisans may be able to contribute. An invitation was sent out to ask the local community to share their talents or connections to continue to develop St. Ambrose University Children's Campus "The Beehive" into an amazing space.