After being inspired by the beautiful Outdoor Nature Explore Classroom at Northminster Learning Center, Mrs. Ellis wanted to bring elements of a nature based play area at Dunlap Grade School. We’ve started phase one of our project by adding the Royal River Bed Playscape. This area allows students to jump, crawl, and hop from stump to stump through a stream of wooden stumps. The project started out with a donation of time from our wonderful Village Maintenance staff and included a weekend of work time by Mrs. Ellis and her evening custodian.
Additions to the playscape include three nature explore tables that will allow students to create, investigate and observe materials in their natural world.
The fifth graders also built and are using a microinverebrate manor to observe the world of insects and plant life around them. They carefully monitor the variables that sustain life and make scientific hypotheses about the impact the environment has on the species in the manor. This is correlated to the Next Generation Science Standards and provides meaningful opportunities for observation, investigation, and writing.
Our third graders wrote a grant and planted a beautiful native plant butterfly garden. Our 2nd grade classes use it annually to release their butterflies. It is a gorgeous addition to the play scape that continually changes throughout the season.
Tires were placed around a mature tree in the play scape. Seemingly unimportant at first glance, they serve as “Little World” play areas for our younger students. Our children that prefer quiet or independent play activities can use the materials in the tires to immerse themselves in imaginative play. Each tire is filled with different materials and supplies for children to play with: trucks, dinosaurs, insects, shells, and people.
Finally, we installed a Free Little Library in the front of the school this summer. We are adding a second library to the rear of the building to provide students the opportunity to read during their independent play time. Benches and seating areas are embedded around the area for students to access.
These materials do not replace the typical playground equipment that our students also have access to, rather they supplement it and provide students additional outlets for play and exploration.
Submitted by: Mandy Ellis
Dr. Lisa Parker, Superintendent