Looking Back and Counting Our Blessings – Part 2
By Dexter Lane, Nature Explore program Writer and Consultant
We continue to be fascinated and blessed by stories arising from our diverse Nature Explore family. While readying for new stories in the new year, we’ll continue to celebrate highlights from blog posts of 2015. Sherry Trebus ensuring the development of outdoor classrooms throughout central Texas. Allison Welch making an offer her local school board couldn’t refuse. These are stories that inspire us. And we hope they seed you with fresh ideas for your own great work with children in nature.
Worms Lure New Members
My Big Backyard, Memphis Botanic Garden, Memphis, TN
We are thankful for the visionaries at My Big Backyard. They proved that an intentionally designed outdoor space for children, powered by a dedicated and expert staff, and featuring innovative programming, can be wildly successful both educationally and financially. Before Memphis Botanic Garden added the outdoor classroom, its membership consisted largely of seniors and individuals. That changed. After several months of activities in spaces such as Seedling Circle, Backyard Bluff, Wormville, and Treetop Adventure, the Garden’s membership soared 300%. And area children’s time in nature soared as well.
A Seed Planted in a Class of One
Allison Welch, Murray, NE
Allison didn’t have a lot of competition for her kindergarten teacher’s attention. In fact, she had none. The only child in her class (in a school of about 13), Allison received a lot of attention from a teacher who wove nature into activities throughout the school day. After-school hours were spent largely outdoors, too. These influences, along with her learning from Nature Explore, inspired Allison while she was President of her local Parent Teacher Organization. She raised $20,000 in seed funding, and had an outdoor classroom design in hand before meeting with the school board for approval. Cougar Hollow, the Nature Explore classroom at the Conestoga Elementary School now hosts children and families for classes, activities; even parties. And Allison is the outdoor classroom’s Coordinator. Her whole community is reaping the rewards of Allison’s learning in that kindergarten class of one.
Exponential Growth Starts From the Power of One
Sherry Trebus, Workforce Solutions of Central Texas, Killeen, TX
After a military study found that the majority of childcare services in central Texas were below national standards, Sherry Trebus took action. Killeen, Texas, is home to Fort Hood, one of the largest military bases in the U.S. Its staff and soldiers deserved improved services for their children. Workforce Solutions, a state agency, was tasked with addressing this critical need. Sherry is the point person on this project.
Sherry assists Central Texas childcare programs in preparing for certification, both state and national. She knows that daily outdoor connections with nature provide essential learning experiences for children. Any program that engages her services is required to develop a Nature Explore Classroom. Program by program, teacher by teacher, child by child, Sherry is making a tremendous difference in the quality of childcare services in Central Texas. For her outstanding work, Sherry, and Workforce Solutions, were awarded the Arbor Day Foundation’s 2015 Rachael Carson Award.
Nature Transforms a Boy, Photos Transform His Family
Corinne Carr of Special Blessings Child Care, Emporia Kansas
Corinne Carr believes passionately in nature’s power to heal children labeled with “behavioral issues.” She has seen “problem behaviors” dissolve when children are immersed in nature. She knows that this labeling is very harmful, as it determines how the adult sees the child, and influences how the child sees himself.
Corinne once admitted to her home-based childcare program a boy described by his struggling mother as a “free spirit.” She correctly predicted that his behavior would be challenging. Yet she soon found that when he played freely in the Nature Explore Classroom, first thing upon arriving, he calmed for hours. During his focused and social play outdoors, Corinne texted photos to the boy’s mother. Seeing this transformation unfold in her child, mom then made time in nature a part of their busy family life.
If Corinne’s name sounds familiar, you’re probably remembering our 2013 blog post, “Inspired to Inspire Others.” Her childcare business may be small, but Corinne’s heartfelt and creative work inspires us hugely.
Learn more about our Certified Nature Explore Classroom network here.