The wonderful Julie Rose and Jim Wike from Nature Explore! in Nebraska came to St. Croix last month to design an outdoor classroom for the St. Croix East End Marine Park. Not only did the team design a beautiful and relevant outdoor classroom, Julie hosted a workshop for island educators in how to effectively use the new classroom. The workshop and initial implementation has been funded through The Nature Conservancy’s Cooperative Agreement with NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program.
Nature Explore! is a collaborative effort between the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation which strives to support others in connecting children with nature. In every outdoor classroom certified by Nature Explore!, there are three requirements: 1) a well-designed outdoor space that uses clearly defined areas, safe-building practices, natural elements, and the principles defined by Nature Explore!; 2) staff development; and 3) family involvement.
Local educators took part in the free staff development offered by Nature Explore! We spent time in the classroom first, but then we moved outdoors to try out a mock-outdoor classroom.
There was a Building Area with natural blocks and pieces.
The Nature Art area was supplied with natural objects from around the world–seeds, seedpods, branches, shells, stones, and sticks–as well as blank paper, colored pencils, clay, and crayons. The team at Nature Art developed a ridge-to-reef theme.
Carol Burke from SEA designed a dream garden space in which to teach and learn with children in the outdoor classroom. Everyone enjoyed seeing the garden plants grouped by colors.
There was a Movement and Music Area where the kinesthetic learners gravitated. We performed The LifeCycle of the Barnacle for the workshop participants.
It was quite the performance! You should have been there.
Thanks again to Julie and Jim! We had a wonderful time and learned so much. Visit Nature Explore! to learn how to start your own certified Outdoor Classroom.