Cape Gazette
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Child's Play by the Bay takes learning outside

New Nature Explore classroom is first certified in Delaware
By Molly MacMillan | Jun 27, 2014
Photo by: Molly MacMillan Students, owners and pre-school teachers assembled at Child's Play by the Bay to celebrate the certification of their new outdoor classroom. Shown in the back row (l-r) Chase Thompson, Chance Gunter, Alisha Melesky, Kiera Fletcher, Sasha Robbins, Alex Muncie, Lucille Curcio, Tyler Steele, Amy Burhop, Quinn Klutchnik and in the front row are (l-r) Dylan Yost, Sarah and Caroline Feist,Theo Hart and Ainsley Fitzgerald.

Child's Play by the Bay's new outdoor oasis of natural learning stations now offers young children the first Certified Nature Explore classroom in Delaware.

Owners Sarah Feist and Alisha Melesky said they spent the winter gathering materials and volunteers to transform the back yard of their childhood development center on Savannah Road into an outdoor classroom with as many as 10 different learning stations.  Standard plastic playground equipment has been replaced with play areas designed to engage children in exploration and cooperative play.

"It's a small space but we've tried to use every inch in a purposeful way," Feist said. "We've noticed that with the plastic equipment, the kids would run outside and play the same every day, but now parents say the kids go home talking about something new every day."

Melesky explained the yard is divided into areas that are all labeled. "Of course, the kids can't read yet, but it promotes literacy and identifies that words mean something," she said. "We don't really need to tell the kids what to do because the space lends itself to so much open-ended play."

Some areas promote sensory play, such as the messy materials station where, Melesky and Feist said, they can crack a watermelon and let the kids feel the squishy sensory stimulation. Other stations promote quantity matching or musicality, with instruments made from natural materials such as wooden chimes.

Feist said for the young children ages 1 to 5 who attend Child's Play, the nature explore classroom promotes as many learning opportunities as a traditional indoor classroom. Many times, she said, learning is enhanced by the change of venue.

"As far as a classroom goes, we can bring our learning outside, and essentially anything we would do inside, we can also do outdoors," Feist said.

For more information about Child's Play by the Bay, call 302-645-2153 or visit www.childsplaylewes.com. For more information about the Nature Explore program, visit www.natureexplore.org.



Students (l-r) Chase Thompson, Theo Hart and Alex Muncie catch ants and make rain in their outdoor classroom at Child's Play by the Bay early childhood center on Savannah Road. (Photo by: Molly MacMillan)
Child's Play by the Bay pre-school student Sasha Robbins leaps from log to log in the climbing area of their certified outdoor classroom. (Photo by: Molly MacMillan)
Tyler Steele, left, and Ainsley Fitzgerald paint on a wooden pallet in the art area of their outdoor classroom at Child's Play by the Bay. (Photo by: Molly MacMillan)
Quinn Klutchnik gets practice at cross-lateral motion in the digging area of his outdoor classroom at Child's Play by the Bay. (Photo by: Molly MacMillan)
Quinn Klutchnik and Kiera Fletcher use the working pump in the water area of play to practice co-operation and learn early engineering skills. (Photo by: Molly MacMillan)
Pre-kindergarten students at Child's Play by the Bay take learning outdoors, when weather permits, in a new Certified Nature Explore classroom in the back yard. (Photo by: Molly MacMillan)
The digging area is one of 10 stations of the Certified Nature Explore classroom at Child's Play by the Bay. Other learning areas such as art, music, water works, climbing and building were designed primarily using natural materials. (Photo by: Molly MacMillan)
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