Inspired to Inspire Others
by Dexter Lane, Nature Explore Consultant
Corinne Carr, owner/operator of Special Blessing’s Child Care, in Emporia, Kansas, has served children for twenty years. During the past few years, since placing emphasis on the children’s outside time, she has come to understand nature’s benefits both for the children, and for herself. Corinne’s Certified Nature Explore Classroom, and the nature-based curriculum she combines with the children’s own interests, form the basis of the amazing outdoor learning her children are blessed to receive.
The real story here is Corinne. But first, a few glimpses into Special Blessing’s Child Care:
- -After she bought the lot next door following a house fire, Corinne’s property is now 20,000 square feet (nearly half an acre).
- -Her Certified Nature Explore Classroom continues to grow as Corinne and her husband Monte (aka Mr. C.) continually add new features.
- -The children are entrepreneurs- “selling” and giving to their families produce they grow in the gardens.
- -Special Blessing’s has three gardens: herb, vegetable and sunflower.
- -As she has four Early Head Start slots, most of the children are below age three, the age at which they leave Early Head Start to enter Head Start. She also has two private pay children.
- -Children play and learn outdoors in all seasons.
- -Natural elements are brought indoors to further highlight nature’s role in their lives.
- -The children’s interests determine much of the learning in the Nature Explore Classroom.
For many years Special Blessing’s outdoors area was a typical playground, just a yard with plastic climbing structures, and did not showcase nature. Corinne began adding natural elements on her own, then attended local seminars about children learning in natural environments. Soon she was referred to Nature Explore, and her new interest developed depth, focus, and became a mission. The natural play areas Corinne and Monte had built were added-to, adjusted and more were built, as they used Nature Explores design principles as a guide. Her outdoor classroom was certified in August, 2012.
Adding play in nature to the children’s day renewed Corinne’s excitement in her work, and helps prevent burn-out. “I need to be outside,” she says. “Being a childcare provider, you’re always needed. You always meet the needs of others- families, children. For me, being outside with the kids- that’s my nurturing. It calms and rejuvenates me.”
Corinne has also learned how to use play in nature to calm and rejuvenate children. She has seen nature calm children who would usually be labeled “difficult,” and is extremely concerned about society’s rush to medicate “problem behavior.” Once labeled, both the child and others are set on courses of behavior that often have profound influence in their lives. She is often able to avoid the problems and the labels by engaging active children in nature-based play.
But Corinne isn’t content just to provide nature’s benefits to the fortunate children in her care. She believes that all children deserve the chance that nature gives them to be their best selves, and is now preparing presentations about the many benefits of nature-based play. Corrine recently became President of the Child Care Providers Coalition of Kansas. Through the Coalition, she will soon be traveling across Kansas bringing this message to other childcare providers.
Corinne’s story movingly demonstrates the benefits nature holds for teachers as well as students. Her presentations will be giving other childcare professionals in Kansas the opportunity to realize those benefits, too.