Community Connection


Follow Nature. Let Them Figure It Out.

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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

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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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A 140 Pound Pot-Bellied Pig Walks Into a Preschool, and…

Shirlee Green Preschool Garden

You might think this is the opening line of a strange preschool joke. It isn’t. It’s from days in the life of Karen Lucy. Karen is the Director of Early Childhood Education in the Shirlee Green preschool at the Jewish Congregation Shaare Emeth in St. Louis, Missouri. And the pig is Millie. When Millie was…
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Garden of Wonder: How Gardening and Greenhouse Activities Facilitate Learning

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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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Connecting all the Pieces in a Nature Explore Classroom

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By Diann Gano, Owner/Director of Under the Gingko Tree   As we enter our sixth year of our Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom, I often find myself reflecting on how our program has grown along with the little bodies that visit it each day. Discovering Nature Explore was like finding that one puzzle piece in your…
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The Wonder of Connection

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A few years ago our past Research Director, Dana Miller, gave me an impactful essay she had written titled “Legacy of the Aspens.” Here’s a part of it: The wonder of the Aspens is their interconnectedness. The largest grove of Aspens in the U.S. covers approximately 106 acres in Utah – 47,000 trees. This expansive grove…
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Outdoor Classrooms: Grounding Children in Reality

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Soon, a new form of Augmented Reality (AR) technology will be available for educational, business, and home use. Through the senses of sight and sound, AR vividly blends the real and virtual worlds. We believe that children who have frequent, meaningful contact with nature will be better able than their peers to balance attractive technologies…
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How Do Children Learn in Nature Explore Classrooms? Let us Count the Ways…

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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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Water Conservation in Your Nature Explore Classroom

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In most regions, the long days of summer lend themselves to water play. While water is refreshing and fun, it is also a precious natural resource. So how do we balance our desire to conserve with the joy of learning with water in a Nature Explore Classroom?  Here are 5 tips to keep you splashing….
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Cultivate the Resiliency in Every Child

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Resilience. Means of developing resilience have been studied for decades. Some believe that children need to be taught to be resilient; others that children are born with an innate capacity for resilience. Which is it? Do adults, having learned how to be resilient in the face of life’s challenges have the skill-set to teach resiliency…
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