Build it Right- from the start!

By Dexter Lane, Nature Explore Consultant

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You already understand that outdoor exploration draws children’s deep curiosity, and rewards them with “whole-body” learning experiences rarely matched elsewhere. You also know that children are spending fewer and fewer hours in natural environments. Concerned about children’s indoor-time, and wanting them to learn holistically in natural settings, you’re now at the point of developing a nature-rich environment for children.

Your outdoor classroom’s design is crucial to the quality of learning children will reach. We’ve learned that cutting corners on design can make for a less-than-effective outdoor classroom and lead to expensive retrofitting later. One of our goals is to use our years of research and experience working with hundreds of sites around the country to help create a space that is right for you. Working with our Nature Explore outdoor classroom design team can help you avoid design mistakes that compromise the learning potential of your space, and save money, too.

Our team of landscape architects and educators delivers comprehensive, research-driven designs tailored to your unique needs. Dimensions Educational Research Foundation’s studies into children’s learning in nature supports all our designs. Local climate, environment and flora; available space; physical characteristics of the site; educational/recreational needs; and many other factors are entered into the design equation for each client.

Our overall goal is to give you an outdoor classroom with focused, delineated, yet flexible, areas filled with nature-rich materials.  Design elements encourage cooperative, open-ended exploration and discourage conflict.  A well-designed outdoor classroom invites multi-disciplinary learning through play. We are honored to have served so many children by facilitating true learning environments, at a fraction of the cost of a traditional playground. 

Here’s a small glimpse into the variety of our Nature Explore outdoor classroom design team’s work.

Kim Pollins, Executive Director of Phoenix, Arizona’s Booker T. Washington Child Development Center, wanted an outdoor space focused on physical development and large motor skills. Also important was that design aspects of the classroom to reflect Arizona’s desert environment.  Because timelines and construction budgets were tight, they opted to engage our Implementation Assistance Package.  Our design team created a detailed implementation document, managed competitive contractor bidding, made recommendations for contractors, and matched materials and labor with the designated budget. We also conducted a series of web conferences with the contractors to ensure that construction remained true to the client’s philosophy and environmental context.  We expect the outdoor classroom to be completed on time and within the budget.

Jim Wike, Nature Explore Design Director, describes this service. “We have been able to develop a design process that recognizes the unique aspects of each situation while maintaining relative ease of implementation and maintenance. Following our guiding principles allows our designers great flexibility and the ability to avoid undue complexity.”

Nature Explore is fortunate to have many clients who have become missionaries; spreading enthusiasm about the benefits of connecting children with nature.  Sherry Treubus,Child Care Policy and Quality Care Manager for Workforce Solutions of Central Texas, has gone further. She made a goal of improving the quality of childcare centers for at-risk children by assisting them in getting outdoor classrooms.  Sherry has brought outdoor classrooms to 12 childcare centers throughout central Texas, in just two years.

Lynn Grant, Assistant Director of First Church Preschool in Temple Texas talks about the impact of improving their outdoor space. “Our new outdoor classroom allows infants to spend time outside, and allows all children to experience additional music and science activities. In addition, it has added to the aesthetic beauty of our facility.”

In Phoenix, we went beyond the design stage; providing comprehensive services that saved the Booker T. Washington Child Development Center money. And in central Texas, we worked with a group of clients using similar funding relationships. Our Nature Explore outdoor classroom design team would love to use its experience and research-driven knowledge base to help tailor a natural learning space to your needs. Our greatest goal is to help you bring the wonder and inspiration of learning with nature to you and your children effectively and affordably, click here to learn more.

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