Children's Country Day School in Mendota Heights Earns National Certification as Nature Explore Classroom

Nebraska City, Neb. (May 15, 2009) – Children's Country Day School in Mendota Heights, Minn., today announced the grand opening of its outdoor classroom will be held on Tuesday, May 19. The outdoor classroom, named Maka Play at Country Day, recently earned the national designation of a certified Nature Explore Classroom from the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation.

The grand opening event, "Plant the Seed," will be an evening of fun and community involvement at Maka Play at Country Day (Maka means earth in the Dakota language). Grand opening activities will begin at 4:30 p.m., and will run until 6:30 p.m. at the school, which is located at 1588 Victoria Road South in Mendota Heights.

Members from the local Dakota community and the Little Earth Drummers of The Little Earth United Tribes will take part in the official ceremony. In case of rain, the event will take place on May 20. During the event, donations will be accepted for the Little Earth Food Shelf.

The national Nature Explore Classroom certification places Children's Country Day School's outdoor classroom in a select circle. It is the second certified Nature Explore Classroom in Minnesota, and is one of 19 certified Classrooms in the United States. The first Nature Explore Classroom is located in the Tree Adventure attraction at Arbor Day Farm, the Arbor Day Foundation's interactive conservation venue in Nebraska City, Neb.

Nature Explore Classrooms are part of the Nature Explore Program, a collaborative project of the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation. Developed in response to the growing disconnect between children and nature, certified 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 Dimensions Foundation's Learning With Nature Idea Book are eligible to become certified Nature Explore Classrooms.

In Children's Country Day School's certified Nature Explore Classroom, children can create visual masterpieces in a nature art area, build with natural materials, climb on natural structures, and practice their balance, agility, and creativity in areas designed for music and movement.

"Children's Country Day School has taken an important leadership role in a profoundly needed initiative to connect young children with nature, setting a wonderful example for education centers across the country," said John Rosenow, chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation. "Everyone at the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation appreciates the commitment Children's Country Day School has made to the Nature Explore program and the role that nature plays in the lives of young children."

The grand opening event at Children's Country Day will also include the dedication of the "Butterfly Buffer," a native prairie planting in the Outdoor Classroom. The "Butterfly Buffer," made possible with a grant from Dakota County Soil and Water, will clean storm water runoff before it enters the water table and will be used as an on-going environmental learning opportunity for students and their families.

For more information about the grand opening event or the school, contact Marlais Brand, Nature Program Coordinator and Teacher at Children's Country Day, at (651) 454-4000 or [email protected].


About Children's Country Day School: Children's Country Day is a preschool located on a seven-acre model farm overlooking the picturesque St. Paul skyline and scenic Minnesota River valley, where plants and wildlife abound. The mission of Children's Country Day School is to provide a loving environment which nurtures the development of a positive self concept. More information about the school can be found at

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.