By Megan Haynes
My journey to create an outdoor classroom is inspired by my mother, Susan Strahm. She has been a long-time advocate for high-quality, early childhood education in Nebraska and first introduced me to the Nature Explore concept when my daughter was a baby.
When I found myself opening up my own preschool, including a Nature Explore Classroom was a “must-have” before I could open my doors. I wanted to create an outdoor space that provided the students with a variety of open-ended materials that would nurture creativity and a sense of wonder in a natural setting.
Roots & Wings includes a “Mud Cafe” in our messy materials area, dirt and sand digging areas, large nature art table for projects, block building station for creations and tinkering, and a stage for music and movement to name a few. We plan to host performances on our stage for parents. For our gathering space, we used tree stumps for singing, snacks, and group activities.
There is a designated garden area for spring, summer, and fall harvests. Right next to the garden is a special pathway through the lilac bushes called the “Tunnel Trail.” The butterfly perennial garden is available to the children to assist in taking care of the plants.
Thanks to my project-oriented dad for building a wood platform that is now used as a stage. Thanks also to my father-in-law for his creativity in building our “Mud Cafe” out of reclaimed pine wood. Also, I’m grateful for the friendship of Berni Ratliff who is my go-to garden expert that is always teaching me new things.
Lastly, I would like to thank my husband, Nana Trish, and my own children for their tremendous support and helping whenever possible!