Conestoga Elementary near Murray, Neb., has become the 200th outdoor classroom to earn national certification as a Nature Explore Classroom from Dimensions Educational Research Foundation and the Arbor Day Foundation.
The Arbor Day Foundation says the school's Cougar Hollow joins a growing network of organizations and institutions that have created effective, nature-based outdoor learning environments for children.
Nature Explore Classrooms are part of the “Nature Explore” program, a collaborative project of the foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation developed in response to what they described as a “growing disconnect between children and nature.”
“Conestoga Elementary has shown tremendous leadership in growing the next generation of environmental stewards,” said Susie Wirth, Nature Explore outreach director.
“Their commitment to providing research-based and nature-rich learning offers a wonderful example to educators throughout the country,” she said.
The classrooms, which are being developed across the country, offer interactive elements such as musical instruments made of natural materials, garden or pathway areas and natural materials for building and creating art.
Children who learn and grow in Certified Nature Explore Classrooms enhance concentration, develop creativity and problem-solving, relieve stress and improve skills in many areas of development.
Outdoor classrooms that are designed according to standards and principles described in Dimensions Educational Research Foundation’s Learning With Nature Idea Book are eligible to become certified Nature Explore Classrooms.
A new guidebook, At Home With Nature: Creating Nature Explore Playscapes for Families, helps parents bring the same research-based approach to learning in nature to their own children at home.
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, Nebraska.
More information on the program can be found at natureexplore.org, on Facebook or on the Nature Explore community blog.