A child’s imagination flourishes when they have access to a natural, outdoor play space that is large enough and designed for children to be fully expressive while exploring their natural world through running, jumping and hiding. In fact, research shows that many of the developmental skills that children must achieve – such as cognitive, social-emotional and motor development – can be most effectively learned through outdoor play.
Dorman Preschool in Shelby County, one of our Excellence Academy early learning centers, recently completed the first phase of building a natural playground to serve as their outside classroom. They began designing their natural playground with Nature Explore, a collaborative program by the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation last year with the help of volunteers from GE Appliances, a Haier Company and community partner, they removed all hardscape manufactured materials that you would see on a traditional playground and introduced more natural elements like tree stumps, arbors and tires. Twenty volunteers spent three days to help construct many of the key elements featured in the Dorman outdoor learning environment, and volunteers hope to complete the final phase this spring!
“The children value the love of learning so much that they spend the majority of their day outside in nature – rain or shine,” shared Mia Cooper, Metro United Way’s Excellence Academy Manager.
When completed, this will be the second Excellence Academy center with a natural playground and a third is in the planning stages! The Excellence Academy program, implemented through a partnership with Metro United Way, Community Coordinated Child Care and the Lift a Life Foundation, is dedicated to help our youngest children arrive at kindergarten ready to learn so they succeed in life.
Photo credit: Community Coordinated Child Care (4-C)