ExpERIEnce is Key

Ainslie Brosig describes herself as a person who does not like to get dirty, a person who tries to “contain a mess.” This is why she was surprised when she found inspiration and joy in a creating a Nature Explore Classroom at ExpERIEnce Children’s Museum in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Ainslie, Executive Director of the museum and with a specialty in marketing, found herself (and the children’s museum) with a vacant   lot in the central city. It was not large enough for parking and was located near the Erie Art Museum. “We wanted to create something that would distinguish our self from others …”

Tami Fowler, Assistant Director at the museum, naturalist, and educator had for years understood the important role nature plays in the lives of children. She showed Ainslie a Nature Explore Resource Guide, filled to the brim with photos of nature-rich spaces and research based natural products to use in outdoor classrooms.

Ainslie was intrigued. “I’m not sure how we got on the mailing list but I’m sure glad we did.”

So… with a dream and interest, Tami and Ainslie drove to the closest Nature Explore workshop they could find and ended up exactly where they needed to be.

During the workshop, Tami, Ainslie and a dozen other participants were asked to spend twenty minutes exploring a Nature Explore Classroom in silence. They were asked to look, feel, smell and notice the details around them.  “Being someone who never slows down, I felt calm and focused for the first time in my recent memory. It was an aha moment for me, I knew we had to build one at the museum so that children could have the same experience I just did.”

On the nine hour ride home, Tami and Ainslie created a strategic plan to build a Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom fully funded by grants.

Now 3 years later in the Nature Explore Classroom at ExpERIEnce Children’s Museum, you can observe a child young enough to still be in diapers paint with sweeping strokes across an art panel. The big drops of orange and blue paint fall easily from his brush and color a river rock flooring, and it’s clear they have made an impact.