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First Botanical Garden in the U.S. with a Nature Explore Classroom

Nebraska City, Neb. (May 2, 2007) - The Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis today announced the opening of its new Nature Explore Classroom in the Doris I. Schnuck Children's Garden. The official opening of the Classroom is planned for Saturday, May 5, 2007. Nature Explore Classrooms are part of the Nature Explore Program, a collaborative project of the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation. The Missouri Botanical Garden's Nature Explore Classroom is the first to be constructed at a U.S. botanical garden, and it is the second to be constructed in the nation. The first Nature Explore Classroom is located in the Arbor Day Farm® Tree Adventure™ attraction, the Arbor Day Foundation's interactive conservation venue in Nebraska City, Nebraska.

Developed in response to the growing disconnect between children and nature, Nature Explore Classrooms are designed to help fill the void by educating young children using research-based principles for integrating nature into their daily learning. These Classrooms offer interactive elements - including climbing structures, musical instruments made of natural materials, wooden blocks, small waterways, and natural materials for building and creating art - that give children important and inspiring nature experiences. While connecting children with nature, such unstructured play and activities are shown to enhance concentration, develop creativity and problem-solving, relieve stress, and improve skills in many areas. Outdoor classrooms that are designed according to principles described in the Foundation's Learning With Nature Idea Book are eligible to become certified Nature Explore Classrooms. The Missouri Botanical Garden's space is one of the first among a growing network of certified classrooms that will be able to share best practices and ideas through an online forum.

The Missouri Botanical Garden's 3,000 sq. ft. Nature Explore Classroom is located at the south end of the Doris I. Schnuck Children's Garden: A Missouri Adventure, an area of the Botanical Garden especially focused on introducing children at their most impressionable age to the significance of plants and nature in fun and innovative ways. In the new Classroom, children can create visual masterpieces in a nature art area, climb and crawl on structures, build with natural materials, and practice their balance, agility, and creativity in areas designed for music and movement.

"We are pleased to partner with two outstanding national organizations, the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation," said Dr. Peter Raven, president of the Missouri Botanical Garden. "With the addition of the Nature Explore Classroom, the Garden continues to build its commitment to connect children to plants and the environment in ways that are fun and imaginative, as demonstrated by the construction of our new Children's Garden."

When reviewing the potential for adding the Nature Explore Classroom, Manager of Public Programs, Dr. Katie Belisle-Iffrig, found that the Nature Explore concept - and the philosophies of the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation - fit perfectly with the Missouri Botanical Garden's own focus on connecting young children with nature. "The Nature Explore Classroom is perfectly aligned with the Garden's mission of providing children with meaningful connections to plants and nature. The Classroom presents young visitors to the Garden with hands-on opportunities to form positive relationships with nature. These relationships are essential for the health and well-being of children and of our planet as well."

"The Missouri Botanical Garden has taken an important leadership role in a profoundly needed initiative to connect young children with nature - not only in Missouri, but throughout the U.S. - setting a wonderful example for botanical gardens across the country," said John Rosenow, president of the Arbor Day Foundation. "The Garden's focus on exposing young children to the wonders of nature makes it an ideal site for the first Nature Explore Classroom outside Arbor Day Farm. All of us at the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation appreciate their support of the Nature Explore program and role that nature plays in the lives of young children."

To construct the Nature Explore Classroom, Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation staff and consultants helped create a design specifically suited to the Missouri Botanical Garden's needs and to the setting of the Children's Garden. Working with the initial design elements, "We made a few adjustments that help blend the Classroom into the existing landscape and infrastructure of the Children's Garden. The end result is an intimate area that provides space for quiet focus, nature play, and creativity," said Dr. Belisle-Iffrig.

The Missouri Botanical Garden is located at 4344 Shaw Boulevard in St. Louis. For general garden information, visit or call 1 (800) 642-8842.


About the Missouri Botanical Garden: The Missouri Botanical Garden's mission is "to discover and share knowledge about plants and their environment, in order to preserve and enrich life." Today, 148 years after opening, the Missouri Botanical Garden is a National Historic Landmark and a center for research, education and horticultural display.

About the Arbor Day Foundation: The Arbor Day Foundation is a nonprofit education organization of nearly one million members, with a mission to inspire people to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees. More information on the Foundation and its programs can be found at

About Dimensions Educational Research Foundation: Dimensions Educational Research Foundation was formed in 1998 to study how science, math and literacy learning can be enhanced by the addition of more visual-spatial activities into classrooms and homes. For a number of years, the Foundation has conducted and collected research on how children best develop visual-spatial skills and how teachers and families can optimally support this development. Dimensions Educational Research Foundation's goal is to create and deliver unique educational programming to 1) Help people better understand and appreciate the natural world by developing visual-spatial skills; and 2) Improve science, math and literacy learning through visual-spatial skills.

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