Grace School’s Outdoor Classroom Scores National Honor
Nestled among massive live oak and pine trees, the Outdoor Space at Grace School in Houston, has earned national certification as a Nature Explore Classroom from Dimensions Educational Research Foundation and the Arbor Day Foundation.
The national certification places the Outdoor Space at Grace in a select circle. It is the second Certified Nature Explore Classroom located at Grace School and one of only six located in Houston. Grace is also the only school in Texas to have two certified classrooms.
“We are so proud to have been given the opportunity to house two Nature Explore Classrooms on our grounds,” said Leigh Anne Shumate, Head of Lower School. “The Outdoor Space at Grace has become an essential component of student life at Grace Lower School.”
The Outdoor Space at Grace is composed of eight unique areas specifically designed to encourage students to build, create, collaborate and play. These areas include a play area, climbing space, messy materials, building area, nature art and music, a sand pit and a garden.
“Before building the Outdoor Space at Grace, we asked our students what they would like to see in their playground,” said Shumate. “We received lots of input and used their ideas to create a space specifically designed to encourage exploration, collaboration and adventure.”
Grace is part of a growing network of organizations and institutions that have created effective nature-based outdoor learning environments for children. This network allows for idea sharing, peer support and continuous development. Grace School encourages neighboring schools and organizations to visit in order to garner inspiration and ideas to create and/or redesign their own nature-based spaces.
“Grace Lower School has shown tremendous leadership in growing the next generation of environmental stewards,” said Susie Wirth, Nature Explore Outreach Director. “Their commitment to providing research-based and nature-rich learning offers a wonderful example to educators throughout the country.”
Nature Explore Classrooms are part of the Nature Explore program, a collaborative project of the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation developed in response to the growing disconnect between children and nature. Certified Nature Explore Classrooms help fill the void by integrating research-based outdoor learning opportunities into children’s daily lives.