I traveled to Kirkland this week to observe the planning process of a ‘Nature Explore’ playground at a new pre-school.  Nature Explore is a collaborative program of Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation that supports learning through nature and outdoor classrooms. The owner of the pre-school, which is designed for infants through kindergarten, recognizes the value of connecting kids, even the tiny ones, to nature through interactive learning opportunities and play in natural settings. This will be no ordinary preschool, but one that recognizes and supports, through hands-on experiential learning, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (termed STEM curriculum by educators). I’m excited to see the conceptual design for the play area, and will be sure to share it with Tree Link readers.

Getting children involved in hands-on outdoor learning activities helps them develop an awareness of nature and to learn environmental stewardship. But beyond that, it is just healthy to be outside. Research shows that individuals that feel connected to nature have better physical, mental and emotional health. And even small ‘doses’ of nature can lower stress, increase focus, and raise energy levels.

Summer is a great time of the year to get out and appreciate our amazing natural resources, including the urban forest. I hope you have the opportunity to grab more than a small a dose of nature, enjoy the urban forest, and to find an opportunity to share with the young-ones among us.

By Linden J. Lampman, program manager, DNR Urban and Community Forestry Program