nature explore: building capacity for children and communities in environmental literacy, childhood...

Download Nature Explore: Building Capacity for Children and Communities in Environmental Literacy, Childhood Development, and Empowerment Through Connections with Nature

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National Environmental Justice Conference and Training Program Presentation, March 11, 2015


  • What is Nature Explore?Resources and programs that support making nature an integral part of childrens daily lives

    All Nature Explore programs are based on research by Dimensions Educational Research Foundation

  • Mission: Transforming Childrens Lives Through Meaningful, Daily Connections With Nature

  • ResearchThe single most important factor in developing personal concern for the environment was positive experiences in the outdoors during childhood.

    Cross-cultural research study by J.A. Palmer

  • Students who spend time in well-designed Nature Explore Classrooms with nurturing adults develop valuable skills across all learning domains.

    (Miller 2007)

    Our Research

  • Post-occupancy Study of Nature-based Outdoor Classrooms Dr. Sam DennisCompared to both indoor and traditional playgrounds, children in outdoor natural settings were reported to be more relaxed, happier, less impulsive, more focused, more creative and better behaved. (Dennis 2014)

  • Nature Explore ClassroomsMaking Nature an Integral Part of Childrens Daily Lives

  • A National Model

    Childcare CentersSchoolsNature Refuges & Forests Parks & Botanical GardensZoosMuseumsLibrariesFaith-based Centers

  • Classroom CertificationThree Requirements for becoming a Certified Nature Explore Classroom

  • Follow the Ten Guiding PrinciplesCreate well-designed outdoor spaces following the principles in the Learning With Nature Idea Book

    All Nature Explore Programs are based on research1

  • Nature Explore Educator WorkshopsAll Nature Explore Programs are based on researchStaff Development2

  • All Nature Explore Programs are based on researchNature Explore Families Club and At Home With Nature

    Family Involvement3

    Washington Youth Garden at the National Arboretum- Washington, D.C.Also Big Bear Discovery Center San Bernardino National Forest, CA

    Warren Village - Denver, Colorado (Preschool Area)Before

    AfterWarren Village - Denver, Colorado (Preschool Area)

    AfterWarren Village - Denver, Colorado (Preschool Area)

    AfterWarren Village - Denver, Colorado (Preschool Area)

    Warren Village - Denver, Colorado (Infant/Toddler Area)Before

    AfterWarren Village - Denver, Colorado (Infant/Toddler Area)

    Warren Village - Denver, Colorado (Infant/Toddler Area)After

    Hope Center - Denver, ColoradoBefore

    Hope Center - Denver, ColoradoAfter

    Kids Grace - Temple, TexasBefore


    Kids Grace - Temple, TexasAfter

    BeforeBrown Street Academy - Milwaukee, WI

    AfterBrown Street Academy - Milwaukee, WI

  • Example - Key Community Partners SupportBrown Street Academy - Milwaukee, WI Keep Greater Milwaukee Beautiful - provided trees, plants, space.Center for Resilient Cities provided leadership and fundraising Milwaukee Dept. of Public Works removed asphalt, provided treesMilwaukee Public Schools Supported training time for educatorsBrown Street Academy Committed to training/ getting children outdoorsAlices Garden Community volunteers cared for the gardenWalnut Way Conservation Corporation offered education opportunities Lindsay Heights Neighborhood Health Alliance provided healthy lifestyle programming and funding supportSeed Folks Youth Ministry - created awareness/community supportU.S. Forest Service offered Nature Explore Training

  • Brown Street Academy - Milwaukee, WI

    NUCFAC PLT GreenSchools! Project - Houston, Texas

    Lantrip Elementary School - Houston, TexasBefore

    In Progress

    Gomez Elementary School - Omaha, NebraskaBefore




  • ResourcesSupporting Your Efforts

  • U.S. Forest Service Educational Resources

  • Woodsy OwlLend a Hand, Care for the Land


  • Other Supporting Organizations

  • July 19-22, 2015

    Lied Lodge and Conference Center Nebraska City, NE

  • Questions?

  • Thank you!2015 Dimensions

    Introduce ourselves

    *What is Nature ExploreCollaboration of two national non profit organizations ADF and DERFWorking together to provide resources that support peoples efforts to make nature part of childrens daily livesAll Nature Explore programs based on research by DERF

    *Our mission at Nature Explore is to help people create nature-rich spaces when those sense of wonder experiences are part of childrens life experience. We want to transform childrens lives through meaningful, daily connections with nature.*(Read quote, then make comment.) Cecile Research has also shown that if we hope to have a future generation of environmental stewards, we need to provide children with positive nature experiences while they are young. Why all the partners are working together.

    * Nature Explore is grounded in research. Teachers, as co-researchers, and a cadre of national research consultants, have been collecting and analyzing data based on direct observations of children since 1998. Dimensions Foundations research showed that children who spend time in well-designed outdoor classrooms, with nurturing adults, develop valuable skills across all learning domains.

    * Susie - We want to give you a brief overview of this national program as we consider how each of us can Make Nature an Integral Part of Childrens Daily Lives.*In addition, Dimensions has conducted research on effective outdoor classroom design.working nationally with landscape architects, designers, educators and conservation professionals. We work not only with early childhood programs, but with a wide variety of groups and organizationsbut our Guiding Principles for creating these spaces remain the same. Each space is as unique and special as the children and adults who will be using it.**The first standard for certification is creation of a well-designed outdoor space following the Guiding Principles from the Learning With Nature Idea Book. You can find this resource at and we also have design services to support your efforts.*But the most wonderfully designed outdoor classroom will only be as effective for children as the adults who explore it with them. The second requirement for outdoor classroom certification is staff development, including attendance at a Nature Explore Educator Workshop so outdoor time can be seen as more than recess or just an opportunity to deliver only rote information instead it is viewed as an invaluable part of each days discovery learning.

    *The third and final certification requirement is Family Involvement. Understanding the benefits their children gain from connecting with nature helps inspire families to spend time outdoors together. These shared outdoor experiencesaway from television and video games help children build strong emotional bonds to nature and to the adults with whom they share their explorations. One resource that the Nature Explore program can provide to organizations is called Nature Explore Families Club, which provides a wealth of activities and ideas that families can use with their children as they explore the outdoors together. This field-tested resource can be downloaded free on our website at nature

    *Beginning of Forest Service involvement with Nature Explore************An example of building community is Brown Street Academy in Milwaukee. BEFORE*After Teachers reporting they have regained their role and ability to scaffold learning and not only be focused on behavior. This was an amazing community engagement model.*Partner examples Comment Another sustainability factor was Alices Garden a community garden associated with the space. Increased community engagement, less vandalism, healthier eating. *CecileRead name and location. Describe involvement

    *******Taking learning outside*WE have resources to support your efforts*Tamberly Forest Service materials for all ages*Tamberly Woodsy Owl materials for early childhood*Connect with us online at

    *As they connect to help groups create nature-rich outdoor classrooms that support might take different formsvolunteers, links to logs or trees, connections to gardeners and plants.

    *Invitation to Leadership Institute*5 min at end for questions*Susie and Tamberly Thank you!*


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