Nature Inspired Learning at Home

By Dexter Lane, Nature Explore Program Writer and Consultant 

392_058Many of you consult our Resource Guide (both online and in print) to purchase nature-rich materials for your outdoor classrooms.  While these products have been field tested in Nature Explore Classrooms, and we often state that they are for outdoor classroom use, we know that they serve children’s learning just as well at home. Especially when they are accompanied by a doting grandparent or engaged parent.

In past years we have met friends of Nature Explore, who were inspired to create intentional outdoor play-spaces at home.  Home-based spaces such as these are perfect locations for products from our catalog.

Sandy and Roger West built an outdoor space at their grandchildren’s home.  Said Sandy, of her two grandsons, “Before, you couldn’t get them outside. Now, they love being outside. They love being dirty; they dig; they are constantly wanting to be outside.”

Heather and Kipper Hesse constructed a space in their backyard for their three girls.  Having seen the benefits of nature for her children while they attended the Dimensions preschool in Lincoln, Nebraska, Heather went on a mission.  She was involved with other parents in the advocacy that resulted in a Nature Explore Classroom at her local elementary school.  She then brought the idea to the Saint Matthews Episcopal Church, also in Lincoln, which now features an exquisitely designed outdoor classroom on its front lawn.

If you are thinking of creating an intentional nature space, our At Home with Nature book will help you adapt the Nature Explore Classroom Design principles for home-based projects.  Yet any natural space, in any season, holds a wealth of learning opportunities.  Tools designed for close observation of natural materials (available here) are appropriate year-round.  Get inspired!  Our free Nature Explore Resource Guide will inform your thinking about nature for children, plus it displays our products.

27265adf_0021x_02Yet please be aware that these products and designed spaces have been known to produce behavioral changes in many children.  As with Sandy West’s grandsons, your children may develop a heightened interest in the outdoors.  They might find that exercising their imagination and curiosity is addictive.  They’ll probably want to go outside more often.  They’ll probably ask questions that you’ll need to research with them.  They’ll develop close observation and research skills that will generalize to other areas of their intellectual lives.  They’ll get more exercise, too.  So please think carefully before considering a purchase from our catalog.  The side-effects of play in nature are often irreversible, and may last a lifetime.

One final note: all our field-tested products are powered by imagination and curiosity.  No batteries needed.

From our Nature Explore family to yours — we wish for you a warm holiday season, filled with togetherness and time together in nature and continued outdoor adventures with children.