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Certified Nature Explore Classroom Opens at U.S. Fish and Wildlife's National Conservation Training Center

date 08/09/12

For more information, contact

Jeff Salem, Director of Communications & Public Relations,   email

Nebraska City, Neb. (August 9, 2012) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS) National Conservation Training Center (NCTC), a hub for conservation education and training in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, recently opened a certified Nature Explore classroom with recognition from the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation.

NCTC will join a growing network of organizations and institutions in hosting research-based outdoor learning opportunities for children. This Nature Explore classroom is the first in the state of West Virginia and was unveiled on June 16, 2012. The classroom was constructed on the grounds of NCTC at the Children's Tree House Child Development Center with the help of several partners, including the USDA's Harpers Ferry Job Corps Center.

The NCTC site is one of the two most recent Nature Explore classrooms on FWS property and will serve as a model for similar outdoor learning spaces in the future. The other new Nature Explore classroom is located at the Creston National Fish Hatchery (NFH) in Montana. Both Nature Explorer classrooms support the FWS Connecting People with Nature initiative.

Youth job opportunities were a key component in the development of both classrooms. NCTC employed a crew of young people from the USDA Harpers Ferry Job Corps Center, while Creston employed a local Tribal Youth Conservation Corps.

The Nature Explore classroom program is already changing children's lives by improving problem-solving and concentration, broadening cognitive and social skills and relieving stress through unstructured exposure to learning in nature.

"Through this project, we are bridging the gap between young people's discovery of nature and their desire to have a career in the outdoors," NCTC Director Jay Slack.

"The NCTC site sets a wonderful example for other learning institutions and organizations throughout the country," said Susie Wirth, Nature Explore outreach director for the Arbor Day Foundation. "Everyone at the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation appreciates the commitment NCTC staff has made to providing nature education opportunities for young children."

Participation in Nature Explore includes required workshops for educators and designers and access to a sourcebook outlining field-tested activities and components. Many participating institutions also receive on-site design consultations.

About the Arbor Day Foundation: The Arbor Day Foundation is a nonprofit conservation and education organization of one million members, with the mission to inspire people to plant, nurture and celebrate trees. More information on the Foundation and its programs can be found at, or by visiting us on Facebook, Twitter or our blog.

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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