Join Us On The Journey
By Dexter Lane, Nature Explore Consultant
Thanks to the generous support from the US Forest Service, families of Warren Village, in Denver, Colorado, are about to embark on a journey into nature. Warren Village is transitional housing for single parent families. The traditional playground and large metal climbing structure that had been part of the Learning Center’s outdoor space is now being replaced with rocks, logs, wooden benches, a performance stage, a flagstone path and a variety of local plants, new trees and more. This natural oasis will be richly supplemented with other field-tested materials from our Resource Guide such as colored scarves and art table and slap drums.
Warren Village houses ninety-three single parent families, and has approximately three hundred child residents. Parents must have at least 50% custody of their children to qualify. Of the Learning Center’s 106 students, most live upstairs, although residents are not required to send their children. The Learning Center follows the Creative Curriculum, which is a child-centered and project-based approach to learning. The Infant Program serves children from six weeks to one year; the Toddler Program serves one through three year-olds; the Preschool Program serves three to Five year-olds; and their after-school program serves five through ten year-olds who attend the local elementary school. Recognized for its rich learning environment, the Learning Center is a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), and received a four-star Qualistar rating. Its reputation attracts children not living in the Warren Village housing, who comprise about ten percent of the student body. Greta Horowitz Learning Center’s commitment to quality education and the rare diversity of the children it serves rendered it richly deserving of the US Forest Service’s heartfelt award.
During the past few weeks, there’s been a definite buzz at the Learning Center. The children are excited and ready. They’ve been telling stories of how they’ll use their new “tree house.” The teachers are ready. One asked if she could hold classes all day outside. Parents are ready, because their children have been talking about the approaching Outdoor Classroom for weeks. Patricia, a parent, told me that she can’t wait to spend evening time with her four and six-year olds in the space.
The Warren Village and Greta Horowitz Learning Center communities are ready and eager to begin their journey. But this is a journey with a difference–because you, the reader, can join them. Over the next several months we will be documenting and blogging, in words and photos, the course of Warren Village’s Outdoor Classroom, and the transformations we know it will inspire. We invite you to join with us to meet Brett Dabb, the Learning Center’s Director, who has been studying nature-based education for years. Join with us in meeting Patricia, mother of two, a Warren Village resident who is now studying Graphic Design, an education made possible by stable housing for her family. Join with us in meeting the children, teachers, school volunteers, and others who will experience transformations large and small.
You’ve probably been with our Nature Explore Community Blog for a while, and have read overviews of many wonderful outdoor classrooms. Those of you who have our books understand the theory and practice of what we do, and have felt the passion of our mission. Now is the time to chronicle, in depth, the story of a single Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom.
For the children, families, educators and friends of the Warren Village community, a journey is about to begin.