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Blocks and Literacy in the Outdoor Classroom

By Candace Kastrup, Infant/Toddler Teacher, Dimensions Education Programs Storytelling has a big impact on children. Often times we find children in our care requesting to hear favorite stories repeatedly. My class of toddlers is no exception, one of their favorites being The Three Little Pigs. After reading the story I presented an idea to the…
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Rocket Scientists, Loose Parts and Irregular Shapes

If you’re looking for employment at NASA/Cal Tech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratories (this is where our spacecraft, moon buggies etc. are designed) you’d be ahead of the pack if you had taken things apart and put things together while playing when you were a child. Back in the 1990’s, when their original genius rocket scientists were retiring, the…
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Now, and Later

The child who walks the entire balance log successfully, and calls for her teacher to watch, owns that learning. She is thrilled by her success. She had been on a mission to walk that log without falling. From this learning period, and from her repeated walks along the log, her balance will be enhanced and…
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She’ll Find Her Own Grand Canyon

Few outdoor experiences for a child could be more majestic than to stand at the base of a Giant Redwood in California. Or to see the brilliant fall colors of New Hampshire and Maine. Or to experience the immense expanse of the Grand Canyon. Yet this is nature writ large; visual drama that excites us…
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Kat Gets It

Last week we had a glimpse of how we can work with children outdoors, through the eyes of David and Frances Hawkins. An adult and a child are both interested in the subject of the child’s exploration. The adult has developed (or renewed) her ability to “mess about” playfully herself. The child has the freedom…
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Cultivating the Scientist in Every Child

Last week we discussed the vital importance of early, self-directed play to later learning and performance. We saw how Nolan Ryan transformed a childhood passion for throwing objects at targets into one of the top pitching careers in baseball history. Among applicants for NASA’s advanced engineering positions, those who had built things as children simply…
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Play Ball!

Nolan Ryan is one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history. During his childhood he liked to throw objects at targets; not baseballs at gloves, just objects at targets. His father wanted him to be a bit more productive in his play, so at age nine Nolan joined a Little League team in Alvin, Texas….
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Follow Nature. Let Them Figure It Out.

Many of you have told me that young children in Nature Explore Classrooms rarely need to be “taught” what to do.  Their innate imagination fuels spontaneous play. Their inborn curiosity ignites research and questions. They often look to you as co-learners, rather than as teachers. And you find a freedom from more formalized lessons in…
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Garden of Wonder: How Gardening and Greenhouse Activities Facilitate Learning

This is the third in a series of “Roots in Research” blog posts, in which we summarize key findings of research conducted by Nature Explore staff and our colleagues at other institutions.   A few years ago, researchers explored preschool and kindergarten students’ learning when they were engaged in hands-on activities in the garden and…
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How Do Children Learn in Nature Explore Classrooms? Let us Count the Ways…

This is the second in a series of “Roots in Research” blog posts, in which we summarize key findings of research conducted by Nature Explore staff and our colleagues at other institutions.   An increasing body of research has documented the powerful role of play in children’s development and the importance of getting children outdoors….
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