Dirt Digging & Nature Explore

by Heather Fox, Education Specialist, 
Dimensions Educational Research Foundation and Nature Explore

The other day I watched several diligent toddlers in the Dirt Digging Area. Engaged in play, they used child-sized tools to move dirt, one scoop at a time, from the ground into a tube. They worked cooperatively for more than ten minutes on this task. It was exhilarating to watch and let me tell you why.


1. The toddlers were working together towards a common goal. One child would pick up a shovel full of dirt and slowly lift it to the top of the tube, just as another child bent to fill his shovel.  A third child consistently checked the dirt level saying, “Not full yet.”

2.  The children used tools and their own original techniques to move the dirt from the ground into the tube. One child used a long-handled shovel while another chose the precision of a plastic formula scoop. The toddler teachers honored the children’s choices and helped them feel successful as the dirt level slowly rose to the top.

3.  During this dirt moving experience the toddlers demonstrated persistence. They were getting their hands dirty and playing hard with a great sense of fun and accomplishment. I even heard a toddler proclaim, “Dirt is fun!”

This reminds me why I like being at Nature Explore.

1.  There are many opportunities to work together.  While traveling, I see teachers, administrators, designers, parents and policy makers all dedicated to our mission to connect children with nature. This is a growing and thriving network of people with strong arms and minds.

2.  Nature Explore encourages individuality while sharing research-based tools to use. There are more than 100 Certified Nature Explore Classrooms across the country. All have been created using the Ten Guiding Principles. Yet each classroom brings it’s own unique qualities and features.

3.  People here are not afraid to work hard or to get their hands dirty. Like the toddlers in the Dirt Digging Area, there is something very fulfilling about seeing your work really make a difference.