There’s help in St. Louis for children yearning for a touch of nature. The Nature Explore Classroom at the Missouri Botanical Garden is the second of its kind in the nation. The area provides unstructured play to allow children to connect with the great outdoors. The garden is the first botanical garden and the second institution to establish such a classroom.
Conceived by The National Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation, Nature Explore Classrooms are a direct response to many children’s lack of outdoors experience. (See “Save Our Children From ‘Nature-Deficit Disorder’,” by Linda Schockley, November/December 2006, on the Grit Web site at www.Grit.com.) An unofficial syndrome, nature-deficit disorder is characterized by the dearth of interaction between children and nature. Outdoor learning and play, according to testing conducted by Dimensions, helps children educationally, behaviorally and developmentally.
“The Missouri Botanical Garden’s focus on exposing young children to the wonders of nature makes it an ideal site for a Nature Classroom,” says John Rosenow, president of The Arbor Day Foundation. “We appreciate the garden’s support of the Nature Explore program and the role nature plays in the lives of young children.”
The classroom at the garden is designed for children ages 3 through 8, and it is open April through October. It is part of the 2-acre Children’s Garden, with areas devoted to nature art, music, creative materials, building materials and unstructured play.
A Nature Explore Classroom must provide a multi-sensory nature experience. For more information on the Missouri Botanical Garden, visit the Web site at www.MOBOT.org, or call (314) 577-9400. For more on the Children’s Garden and the Nature Explore Classroom, as well as other programs, visit the Web site at www.MOBOT.org/finn, or call (314) 577-9425.