College is Home to First Nature Explore Classroom in S.C.

The College of Charleston N. E. Miles Early Childhood Development Center (ECDC) is the first nationally certified Nature Explore Classroom in South Carolina, as designated by the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation. ECDC (located at 91 Wentworth St.) joins more than 100 organizations nationwide that have created effective outdoor learning environments for children. 

“N. E. Miles Early Childhood Development Center 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 the College of Charleston N.E. Miles Early Childhood Development Center has made to the Nature Explore program and to providing nature education opportunities for young children.”

Nature Explore Classrooms are outdoor classrooms offering interactive elements 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. These outdoor classrooms are designed according to principles described in the Dimensions Foundation’s Learning With Nature Idea Book.

To earn the designation, ECDC created 16 separate activity areas within their nearly 7,000 square-foot playground area. In addition to open space for large motor activities and structures for swinging, climbing, and crawling (complete with a Charleston “carriage”), the outdoor classroom includes areas for messy materials, construction, nature art, music and movement, gardening (including a butterfly garden), water play (including water channeling modules, a pumping system, and mud kitchen), sand and “archaeology” (where students actually find historic artifacts). Director Dr. Candace Jaruszewicz commented, “This project was truly a community effort that will continue to evolve as a logical extension of our play-based philosophy and curriculum. It is important to find ways to connect children with the natural environment and we are proud to have earned this distinction as part of our efforts to position the ECDC as a regional and national model for high quality early childhood education.”

Certified 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, 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. 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, NE.

About the Arbor Day Foundation:  The Arbor Day Foundation is a nonprofit conservation and education organization of one million members, with the mission to inspire people to plant, nurture and celebrate trees.  More information on the Foundation and its programs can be found at, or by visiting us on Facebook, Twitter or our blog.

About Dimensions Educational Research Foundation:  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.

About the College of Charleston N.E. Miles Early Childhood Development Center: The N.E. Miles ECDC has been part of the College of Charleston School of Education, Health, and Human Performance since 1974 and is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) – the nation’s leading organization of early childhood professionals. The program serves the entire campus and extended early childhood community as a laboratory and demonstration program site and provides child care support for campus and community families.