Nature’s Pointe Cooperative Preschool teacher Marlo Landis is a firm believer in the benefits of outdoor classrooms.
“There is a lot of research that shows all of their learning is enhanced by being outdoors,” said Landis, who teaches in the classroom for 3-year-olds and helps in the classroom for 4- and 5-year-olds. “The environment is calming and it really helps with behavior issues. There are not as many behavior issues when they can be outside more.”
Nature’s Pointe Cooperative Preschool recently became the first school in Noblesville to earn national recognition as a Certified Nature Explore Classroom from the Nature Explore program, which is a division of the nonprofit Dimensions Educational Research Foundation.
The certification giver Nature’s Pointe Cooperative Preschool a number of benefits, including membership in an ever-expanding network of more than 450 like-minded spaces nationwide. Certified Nature Explore Classrooms foster highly effective, nature-based outdoor learning.
“It’s not just our nature courses. We can take our math, language and social skills and work on them out there,” said Landis, a Fishers resident in her 11th year at the school.
Noblesville resident Kim Cortez, who teaches in the classroom for 2-year-olds and one for 18-month-olds, said all ages benefit.
Nature’s Pointe, 1399 Greenfield Ave., is a parent-run preschool.
“Nature Explore sets out criteria for you to achieve, and they’ve done research on what that criteria should be,” Cortez said. “We’ve completed Nature Explore workshops and trainings and done everything they’ve asked us to do. We submitted the application for certification.”
Cortez said Nature Explore wanted the outdoor classrooms to have separate places for building, climbing, gathering and music.
“They have other areas we include like gardening and a mud-kitchen area,” Cortez said.
Cortez said the school had to get approval from the school board as well as from the landlord about changing the space and how it would be maintained.
“We needed funds, and lot of it was donated by a parent who used to be at our school,” Cortez said. “We have a playhouse. That’s not needed to be certified, but we felt that’s something the children would enjoy.”
Cortez said children learn about different plants and the environment.
“More than anything, it helps them to do what they would normally do in an outside environment,” she said.
Cortez said they started working on the outdoor classroom three years ago after attending some workshops.
“We felt like it fit with our philosophy,” she said.
Landis said children spend a good portion of their day outside, unless it’s too cold.