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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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Learning without Limits — Nature’s Loose Parts

Imagine a shoreline after high tide speckled with seashells, kelp and driftwood. The beach, filled with treasures more tantalizing than anything found in a department store, encourages children—and adults—to explore, create and imagine. With no specific set of directions—and powered only by a child’s imagination—an assortment of conch shells might be gathered and classified, or…
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The Padrino (Part 2)

James Oftendal, founder of the US Forest Service’s Generation Green program, has worked hard for over two decades to build its diverse, twenty person staff. Generation Green, which started with one school in Central California, now has people in Los Angeles, the Central Valley, Sacramento, South Lake Tahoe, Eldorado National Forest, and north in Mendocino….
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The Padrino (Part 1)

During his first few days working for the US Forest Service in California’s Sierra National Forest, James Oftedal would have walked home—if he’d known the way. He was out of his element, and ready to resume life in a rough area of Fresno, where he’d grown up. In this new, alien environment of the forest,…
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Relax, Renew and Grow Professionally

One thing I’ve come to know for sure: I can only be as kind to others as I am to myself. That’s why I look forward to the Nature Explore/Outdoor Classroom Project Leadership Institute national conference every year. It’s a time to relax, renew, grow professionally, grow as a community, and perhaps most importantly, grow…
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No Teacher Left Indoors (part 1)

Back in the 1990’s, the faculty of a Colorado preschool began studying the municipal preschools of Reggio Emilia, Italy. The Italian schools had become famous for their creative educational practices that flowed from a core philosophy. The child is a current (not just future) citizen of her community; she is an active and capable learner;…
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Dragonflies, Alligators and Bears—Oh My!

Sitting alone in his room in a cabin, in the middle of an old growth cypress forest, after an hour’s ride from the airport (mostly in pitch black darkness from the total absence of street lights), Britt Moore wondered if he’d made a mistake. He’d grown up on Chicago’s south side. The cabin was in…
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Takeaways from the 2016 Leadership Institute

Ask any three educators who attended the recent Leadership Institute what the experience meant to them, and you’ll likely get at least three different answers. Presented by Nature Explore and The Outdoor Classroom Project, the Institute drew educators, administrators, advocates and allied professionals from across the US. For three days we learned about and discussed…
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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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Four Guinea Pigs; a Sugar Glider, Parakeet, Tarantula, Blue-Tongued Skink, Dwarf Hamster; and Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches

This is the resident list of the Exploration Center at the Shirlee Green preschool of Congregation Shaare Emeth in St. Louis, Missouri. It’s another of Karen Lucy’s innovations. On occasion, Millie the pot-bellied pig visits with her friend Ruthie, also a pig. A skittish hedgehog is slowly being socialized for eventual residency. The hedgehog was…
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