Community Connection

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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Nature + Play = Math Learning


How do we help young children develop early math skills that will provide them with a solid foundation, nurture a continued love of learning, and translate to later success in constructing and applying math knowledge? Many early childhood experts believe the best way to help develop this early foundation is through age-appropriate learning, which for…
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Why Grass Rules


A sterile monoculture or a magical play surface? I’m a turf guy. I like my lawn. Many can debate all the attributes both positive and negative, but I’ll leave that to others. One thing I know is that turf is a magical surface for children. When I was young grass is where I collected acorns,…
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Takeaways from the 2016 Leadership Institute

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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.

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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

Shirlee Green Preschool

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


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 5000…
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The Wonder of Connection


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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