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Mid-Island Y Outdoor Nature Explorium Earns National Certification

The Mid-Island Y JCC Outdoor Nature Explorium earned the national designation of a certified Nature Explore Classroom from the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation.  

The national certification places Mid-Island Y JCC in a growing network of organizations that have created effective outdoor learning environments for children. This network allows for idea-sharing, peer support, and continuous learning and development. The first Nature Explore Classroom is located in the Tree Adventure attraction at Arbor Day Farm, the Arbor Day Foundation’s interactive conservation venue in Nebraska City, Neb. 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 are designed to help fill the void by educating young children using research-based principles for integrating nature into their daily learning.

These classrooms, which are being developed across the country, offer interactive elements – including musical instruments made of natural materials, climbing structures, wooden blocks, small waterways, garden areas, and natural materials for building and creating art – that give children important and inspiring nature experiences. While connecting children with nature, such unstructured play and activities are shown to enhance concentration, develop creativity and problem-solving, relieve stress, and improve skills in many areas.

Mid-Island Y JCC is located at 45 Manetto Hill Road in Plainview, NY.  The creation of their outdoor learning environment was spearheaded by parent volunteers of the JCC’s Early Childhood Center, as well as Dr. Rhya Jerrold, the ECC Director. Outdoor classrooms that are designed according to principles described in the Dimensions Foundation’s Learning With Nature Idea Book are eligible to become certified Nature Explore Classrooms. In a certified Nature Explore Classroom, children can create visual masterpieces in a nature art area, build with natural materials, climb on natural structures, and practice their balance, agility, and creativity in areas designed for music and movement. 

“Mid-Island Y JCC has taken an important leadership role in a profoundly needed initiative to connect young children with nature, setting a wonderful example for education centers across the country,” said Susie Wirth, Nature Explore outreach director for the Arbor Day Foundation. “Everyone at Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation appreciates the commitment that Mid-Island Y has made to the Nature Explore program and to providing nature education opportunities for young children.”

The Arbor Day Foundation is a nonprofit education organization of more than 1 million members, with a mission to inspire people to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees. More information on the foundation and its programs can be found at arborday.org.

Dimensions Educational Research Foundation was formed in 1998 to study how science, math and literacy learning can be enhanced by the addition of more visual-spatial activities into classrooms and homes. For a number of years, the Foundation has conducted and collected research on how children best develop visual-spatial skills and how teachers and families can optimally support this development. Dimensions Educational Research Foundation’s goal is to create and deliver unique educational programming to 1) Help people better understand and appreciate the natural world by developing visual-spatial skills; and 2) Improve science, math and literacy learning through visual-spatial skills.