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Lakeshore in the Community


Lakeshore Receives 2013 National Arbor Day Award

On Saturday, April 27, 2013, the Arbor Day Foundation presented Lakeshore with the prestigious Rachel Carson Award in recognition of our efforts to connect children with nature and inspire educators across the country to do the same. Previous National Arbor Day Award winners include the late Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, veteran newsman Bill Kurtis, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Mary Kay Inc.

Lakeshore has long believed that putting children in touch with nature has powerful educational, developmental and behavioral benefits—from encouraging observation and problem-solving skills to nurturing a concern for the environment and promoting physical activity. Working closely with Dimensions Educational Research Foundation and the Arbor Day Foundation, Lakeshore transformed Kids & Company, our on-site preschool for employees’ children, into a Nature Explore® Classroom. Kids & Company promotes active learning skills by letting children experience the sights, textures and beauty of nature. In addition to all-natural décor including bamboo fencing and log dividers, the space features inviting activity areas that allow children to make one-of-a-kind constructions with items from nature, build with real bricks and stones, and much more. Children also plant and tend to a variety of fruits and vegetables in a beautiful garden area.

In 2009, Kids & Company became the third Nature Explore® Classroom in California and the 25th in the nation. Since then, Lakeshore has continued to collaborate with Dimensions to spread the message about the benefits of outdoor education. Lakeshore has reached thousands of early childhood educators nationwide by participating in Nature Explore® workshops and professional development programs, as well as dozens of speaking engagements at some of the country’s largest educational conferences.


The Story of Our Outdoor Classroom

Phase 1: The Planning Process
When we learned about the Nature Explore® Classroom concept, we were eager to integrate it at our school. Developed by the Arbor Day Foundation (ADF) and the Dimensions Educational Research Foundation, Nature Explore® Classrooms represent a nationwide effort to transform preschools into natural settings that promote active outdoor learning that makes nature an integral part of children’s daily experience. Especially relevant for urban learning environments, Nature Explore® Classrooms promise to enhance a child’s imagination and learning skills through the sights, textures and beauty of nature. Once the classroom is up and running, we hope other schools will see its many benefits and use it as a model for their own curricula.

The initial process involved conducting a detailed survey of the available space; drawing up detailed plans for the classroom, as shown below; and presenting the plan to all the parents of the children in our preschool. When everyone saw the plans and pictures of other Nature Explore® Classrooms, they became very enthusiastic about the transformation of our school!

Click on the images below to enlarge.

Ready for a celebration!
Ready for a celebration!
The concept plan details the many exciting features of the Nature Explore® Classroom.
The concept plan details the many exciting features of the Nature Explore® Classroom.
Plans are scrutinized to make sure the new classroom is just right!
Plans are scrutinized to make sure the new classroom is just right!
Kids and parents get a preview of the Nature Explore® Classroom.
Kids and parents get a preview of the Nature Explore® Classroom.
Preschool parents receive an in-depth explanation of how the Nature Explore® Classroom will benefit their children.
Preschool parents receive an in-depth explanation of how the Nature Explore® Classroom will benefit their children.
A view of Kids & Company’s outdoor area before construction began.
A view of Kids & Company’s outdoor area before construction began.
Another view of the outdoor area prior to construction.
Another view of the outdoor area prior to construction.


Phase 2: Ribbon Cutting
On August 22, 2008, we had an informal ribbon-cutting ceremony and planting party to celebrate the kickoff of the Nature Explore® Classroom. Dozens of excited children, moms and dads brought organic soil and flowers to plant in new planters that represent the first step of this great enterprise.

Click on the images below to enlarge.

Just one of the many kids eager to dig into all the planting at the launch party!
Just one of the many kids eager to dig into all the planting at the launch party!
The ribbon-cutting ceremony officially launched the Nature Explore® Classroom project.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony officially launched the Nature Explore® Classroom project.
Getting ready to fill up a new planter with colorful new plants.
Getting ready to fill up a new planter with colorful new plants.
Gardeners big and small took part in all the planting activities!
Gardeners big and small took part in all the planting activities!
A look at our first six planters!
A look at our first six planters!
Our new planters are on the left…and the new covered sandbox area is on the right!
Our new planters are on the left…and the new covered sandbox area is on the right!


Phase 3: Building
The initial building phase involved the complete redesign and reconstruction of the sandbox area—which is now a cool, shaded spot where children can play even on the sunniest days. Then, we worked on and completed an outdoor Messy Materials Area, where the children could interact with each other and create one-of-a-kind constructions from various items. We also created a boat-shaped Messy Materials Area specific for toddlers. And this past fall, we added a new fence made from bamboo. The fence will serve to add privacy for the kids and add a natural color and look to the classroom environment.

Click on the images below to enlarge.

Our original preschool sandbox.
Our original preschool sandbox.
Jack Roy and son, Jared, work on the new sandbox. Jared, 18, attended Kids & Company in 1992.
Jack Roy and son, Jared, work on the new sandbox. Jared, 18, attended Kids & Company in 1992.
Our new sandbox and Messy Materials Area. What a fantastic change!
Our new sandbox and Messy Materials Area. What a fantastic change!
Our new toddler fence is just the right size for little ones.
Our new toddler fence is just the right size for little ones.
Lakeshore employees pitch in to help build the bamboo fence.
Lakeshore employees pitch in to help build the bamboo fence.
The finished project! The fence provides privacy and a fresh, natural look.
The finished project! The fence provides privacy and a fresh, natural look.


Phase 4: What We’ve Seen
The Nature Explore® Classroom has already begun to open the children’s eyes to new things. They have discovered that pumpkins come in many sizes and are heavy; tree branches break and you can’t fix them; and pinecones exist. The teachers’ biggest role in the Nature Explore® Classroom has been to trust children in their play. They are, after all, playing with large tree branches and picking up bricks and heavy stones!

The teachers are also taking the children on nature walks to collect materials for the Messy Materials Area. The walks help the children build their vocabulary, learn to respect the space around them and learn to solve problems. We couldn’t be more pleased with the opportunity to have this area for children to play!

Click on the images below to enlarge.

The kids are right at home in the new sandbox!
The kids are right at home in the new sandbox!
The Messy Materials Area provides new eye-opening experiences to many of the children.
The Messy Materials Area provides new eye-opening experiences to many of the children.
The children love the boat-shaped Messy Materials Area.
The children love the boat-shaped Messy Materials Area.
Ben makes sure the pinecones are in the right order.
Ben makes sure the pinecones are in the right order.
Malaki and Angelo examine what the Messy Materials Area has to offer.
Malaki and Angelo examine what the Messy Materials Area has to offer.
The children discover that pumpkins can come in all shapes and sizes.
The children discover that pumpkins can come in all shapes and sizes.


Phase 5: Finishing Touches
We created three separate play areas: a gathering area, a dramatic play space and a block-building area. The gathering area is a place where children can read books, listen to teachers retell a favorite story, or get together for a circle-time activity. Already, our dramatic play space has been turned into a “backyard bbq” and a “bear cave.” Natural bricks and stones were added to our block building area.

We also created a music Area. With the use of some donated logs and wood chips (for ground covering), we were able to establish a Music & Movement Area under one of our large trees. Finally, we established a garden area in the center of our bike path. We used “river rock” ground covering, which adds a wonderful texture to the environment. Our goal for the next few months is to establish a fruit and vegetable garden for children to enjoy. We have planted irises all around our new garden. Over time, the plants will provide a nice pathway around the bike area.

Click on the images below to enlarge.

Daniel and Mattson explore the “bear cave” in the dramatic play area.
Daniel and Mattson explore the “bear cave” in the dramatic play area.
Our new garden area is all set to bloom.
Our new garden area is all set to bloom.
A panoramic view of our outdoor area…what progress we’ve made!
A panoramic view of our outdoor area…what progress we’ve made!
Cyrus searches the garden for friendly critters.
Cyrus searches the garden for friendly critters.
Our Music & Movement Area is ready for action!
Our Music & Movement Area is ready for action!
Sorting pinecones is lots of fun!
Sorting pinecones is lots of fun!
Children enjoy some great books—outdoors!
Children enjoy some great books—outdoors!


We’re certified!
On August 20, 2009, we received official word that our classroom has been certified by the Arbor Day Foundation (ADF) and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation. Our classroom is the third Nature Explore® Classroom to be certified in California and the 25th in the nation. To celebrate our certification, Kids & Company threw an outdoor classroom party!

Click on the images below to enlarge.

Celebrating our certification with a little music and some smiles!
Celebrating our certification with a little music and some smiles!
Be-bop-a-lula, it’s time for outdoor hula!
Be-bop-a-lula, it’s time for outdoor hula!
Keeping cool under a shower of celebration bubbles!
Keeping cool under a shower of celebration bubbles!
Jabari enjoys the bubble fun!
Jabari enjoys the bubble fun!
Sydney celebrates her new outdoor classroom with friends.
Sydney celebrates her new outdoor classroom with friends.
Simon says, “Reach for the sky!”
Simon says, “Reach for the sky!”
The kids enjoy a healthy meal in the surroundings of their new classroom!
The kids enjoy a healthy meal in the surroundings of their new classroom!


Springtime at Kids & Company’s Nature Explore® Classroom
We can’t believe it’s already spring at Kids & Company! It’s been a busy few months here, and we’re making great progress on our new garden. So far, the children have planted a variety of fruits and vegetables including lettuce, green beans, cucumbers, carrots…even watermelons that we can enjoy during the hot summer months. Planting this garden has really added a new dimension to the learning process, and we couldn’t be happier about that.

Our friends at Grounds for Play have been kind enough to donate a new playhouse (made entirely of Trex®, a composite material of recycled plastic and recovered wood fibers) as well as a new giant marimba that the children just love to play! We’d like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Grounds for Play for their great support.

We have a number of things planned for the coming months at Kids & Company, and we’ll keep you posted about the children’s growing appreciation of and respect for the natural world. Please be sure to check out our latest photos!

Click on the images below to enlarge.

Here’s a great view of Kids & Company with our spring garden and new
playhouse off to the right!
Here’s a great view of Kids & Company with our spring garden and new playhouse off to the right!
Lily waiting very patiently for new sprouts of lettuce!
Lily waiting very patiently for new sprouts of lettuce!
Maliyha and Jasmine trying out our new marimba!
Maliyha and Jasmine trying out our new marimba!
Dia and McKenna enjoying the view from the playhouse donated by Grounds
for Play!
Dia and McKenna enjoying the view from the playhouse donated by Grounds for Play!
Our preschoolers making themselves at home in their new playhouse!
Our preschoolers making themselves at home in their new playhouse!
Natalie and Mattson harvesting the new spring carrots!
Natalie and Mattson harvesting the new spring carrots!
Hands-on block play with our natural wood Nature Blocks!
Hands-on block play with our natural wood Nature Blocks!


Summer Fun…In and Out of the Sun
This summer is shaping up into something really special. We just added a gazebo to our Nature Explore® Classroom…and the toddlers love it!

Not only does the gazebo protect our little ones from sunlight, it provides the perfect amount of shade for new plants and vegetables. Right now, we’re growing mint, basil, lemon cucumbers and begonias. Plus, the addition of these plants and vegetables has attracted some new residents that the children are fascinated by—butterflies! These beautiful creatures really put the children in the mood to explore and discover their surroundings.

In other news, our very own Elena Otto traveled to Nebraska this past July for the Nature Explore® Symposium held at the Arbor Day Farm. While there, she met with the enthusiastic directors of 40 outdoor classrooms from around the country. The highlight of the symposium was reviewing case-study research that concludes the Nature Explore® Classroom successfully promotes math and literacy skills, social skills, creative representation, visual-spatial skills and more. All we can say is hurrah for outdoor classrooms!

Finally, our implementation of the Be Choosy Be Healthy® Activity Kit is in full swing. Developed by Dr. Linda Carson and Lakeshore’s product development team, the activities in this kit really get the kids moving and thinking about food and physical activity. We even had an on-site training from Choosy himself!

Click on the images below to enlarge.

Our new gazebo!
Our new gazebo!
Ms. Patty and company!
Ms. Patty and company!
Eli and his new best friend!
Eli…standing guard over the mint!
Little Mia waiting her turn!
Little Mia waiting her turn!
Anthony and Isabel inspecting the vegetables!
Anthony and Isabel inspecting the vegetables!
Choosy and the kids on parade!
Choosy and the kids on parade!
Choosy teaching us about good nutrition!
Choosy teaching us about good nutrition!


Fall Fun at the Nature Explore® Classroom
Once again, Grounds for Play is bringing joy to the Nature Explore® Classroom at Kids & Company! This generous organization has kindly donated three new outdoor musical instruments to us—a glockenspiel, a limbarimba and a bongo post! The children already love the marimba donated this past spring, and these new instruments are sure to make our Music & Movement Area an even bigger hit with kids and parents alike.

Among other exciting changes, we’ve replanted our ever-popular shoe garden along the perimeter of the Toddler Area, and we’ve also planted new grass in the playground. Also, because the children enjoy digging so much, we’ve converted the Toddler Messy Materials Area into a digger’s dream—a big sandbox for all to enjoy!

Making the most of the learning opportunities presented by having a Nature Explore® Classroom, our three-year-olds are conducting a scientific experiment! They’ve planted carrots in our planter beds and in plastic bottles filled with water to determine which method will produce carrots faster! In other news around the garden, our four-year-olds are amazed by the growth of their first watermelon as it grows bigger each day. They’ve also planted Japanese eggplant (and they can’t wait for it to sprout)!

Autumn has been a very creative time here at Kids & Company. The children recently decorated four large wooden wall frames for displaying photographs of our outdoor classroom. (They even used all-natural materials—old coffee grounds and recycled tea bags—to stain the frames.) Our five-year-olds had a wonderful time completing another woodworking project as well—a beautiful American flag. The kids hammered the pieces together and painted the stars & stripes all by themselves. Soon, we’ll be mounting the flag outside where we say the Pledge of Allegiance each morning.

Click on the images below to enlarge.

Our Music  & Movement Area with all of the outdoor instruments donated by Grounds for Play!
Our Music & Movement Area with all of the outdoor instruments donated by Grounds for Play!
Nathan, Rex and Evan making the most of our new limbarimba!
Nathan, Rex and Evan making the most of our new limbarimba!
Playing a solo on the bongo post—the one and only Evan!
Playing a solo on the bongo post—the one and only Evan!
Jorge enjoying the new glockenspiel!
Jorge enjoying the new glockenspiel!
Part of our shoe garden…complete with pansies!
Part of our shoe garden…complete with pansies!
Richard, Diya and Ms. Vicky checking on a planter of carrots!
Richard, Diya and Ms. Vicky checking on a planter of carrots!
Looks like these carrots are growing pretty fast!
Looks like these carrots are growing pretty fast!


Spring Trike-A-Thon
This spring, our Nature Explore® Classroom was the site of a very special Trike-A-Thon. Kids & Company sponsored this exciting, action-packed event to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

In the weeks leading up to the Trike-A-Thon, parents helped children get sponsorships from friends, family members and coworkers. When the big day finally arrived, children donned their safety helmets, hopped on their bikes & trikes, and then used pedal power to ride laps around the course—while several of the older kids teamed up to count and tally the laps.

In the end, the children raised over $1,300 to help children battling cancer and other catastrophic diseases. Along the way, they also learned about safety and physical fitness…and experienced the power and joy that comes with volunteering to help others in their community!

Click on the images below to enlarge.

Safety first!  Children help each other fasten their safety helmets.
Safety first! Children help each other fasten their safety helmets.
A determined rider stands up in his seat to power through the course.
A determined rider stands up in his seat to power through the course.
A teacher and several children cheer on riders as they pass.
A teacher and several children cheer on riders as they pass.
Kids of all ages participated—ranging from 2 1/2 to 5 1/2 years old.
Kids of all ages participated—ranging from 2 1/2 to 5 1/2 years old.
Two older students partner up to count and tally laps.
Two older students partner up to count and tally laps.
A lap-counter gives extra encouragement to a passing rider.
A lap-counter gives extra encouragement to a passing rider.


Creating Streams
A moving waterway courses through the rocks…young engineers build bridges across the stream…and wild animals suddenly appear at the watering hole to enjoy their new habitat! Yes, it’s just another day at our Nature Explore® Classroom.

Recently, our five-year-olds spent an afternoon excavating our rock garden. First, they created their own meandering streambed by reshaping the rocks to form a long trench. Next, they used a water hose to start the current—and then added pinecones and moved more rocks to change the flow and direction of the water. The children also brought in building blocks to construct bridges that spanned the waterway, and then added dramatic play animals to complete their landscape!

As children worked and played, they expanded their problem solving skills, developed their vocabulary and enjoyed invaluable, hands-on experience with a variety of science concepts. For example, children learned firsthand about the properties of water and discovered how landforms and water work together in nature to create such features as pools, streams, dams and waterfalls.

Click on the images below to enlarge.

Several children direct the flow of water while others build bridges.
Several children direct the flow of water while others build bridges.
Children construct a waterfall using rocks and a water hose.
Children construct a waterfall using rocks and a water hose.


Maintaining the Playground
The children at Kids & Company are responsible for maintaining the playground, which helps children build leadership skills and develop a sense of community. Our Messy Materials Area was recently in need of some wood chips, so our four- and five-year-olds got to work!

With a lot of muscle, ingenuity, teamwork and a little bit of help from a tricycle, the children were able to transport the bags of wood chips to their final destination. Then, the kids grabbed their garden tools to rake and smooth the chips to create a nice, even covering for their play space.

Click on the images below to enlarge.

There’s nothing like teamwork to get the job done!
There’s nothing like teamwork to get the job done!
Children prepare to unload their tricycle.
Children prepare to unload their tricycle.
Kids give it everything they’ve got to carry the chips to their destination.
Kids give it everything they’ve got to carry the chips to their destination.


Outdoor Classroom Continues to Grow and Change
As we transition from summer to fall, our Nature Explore® Classroom changes with the seasons. In preparation for the cooler weather, the teachers and children have been busy transplanting plants and putting in new seeds for the winter harvest. They’re no longer making tomato salads or enjoying the bumper crop of eggplants they saw this year, but they’re still growing some warm-weather vegetables—such as green beans—thanks to our lingering California sunshine. Meanwhile, the cold-weather veggies are just beginning to sprout—as radish and carrot seedlings make their way up through the soil.

In addition to the veggies, we’ve also been enjoying flowers. The children planted sunflowers this year—which grew to over seven feet tall! Some of the older students used the flowers to explore measurement concepts, comparing their heights to these beautiful living towers.

Recently, the classroom also welcomed the addition of some very special donations. Jack Roy, the father of one of our former students, had to cut down a large Chinese Elm tree on his property. Instead of turning the logs into yard waste or firewood, Jack decided to donate the logs to the children. Before he brought them in, Jack made the logs kid-friendly by removing rough edges and carving the logs into natural steps, chairs and level platforms. This was no easy task, as many of the logs were more than two feet wide! The children couldn’t be more pleased with this new addition to the playground. There are so many logs that we have also placed some in our Messy Materials area and sandbox. The children especially enjoy using the logs for climbing and jumping—developing their motor skills as they play.


Click on the images below to enlarge.

Our teachers hand-crafted signs to identify the veggies in each planter—like the young green bean plants shown here.
Our teachers hand-crafted signs to identify the veggies in each planter—like the young green bean plants shown here.
Natural wood pieces encourage children to stack, build and count tree rings…kids even use them to make pretend sandwiches & burgers!
Natural wood pieces encourage children to stack, build and count tree rings…kids even use them to make pretend sandwiches & burgers!
Children stop to smell the oregano.
Children stop to smell the oregano.
Children jump and climb on their new logs—all of which were donated by the parent of a former student.
Children jump and climb on their new logs—all of which were donated by the parent of a former student.
In addition to playing with these wood pieces, kids also talk about where the pieces came from—and compare them to the larger logs on the playground.
In addition to playing with these wood pieces, kids also talk about where the pieces came from—and compare them to the larger logs on the playground.
One of our brand-new logs makes a great table for writing and drawing!
One of our brand-new logs makes a great table for writing and drawing!
Kids explore measurement concepts as they compare themselves to our giant sunflowers!
Kids explore measurement concepts as they compare themselves to our giant sunflowers!


Infant/Toddler Playground Under Construction
An exciting transformation is taking place at our infant/toddler playground that will bring little ones even closer to nature! The completely remodeled outdoor space will feature many natural elements that are developmentally appropriate for tots, including a garden area with low, accessible beds and a gated fence to ensure safe, supervised exploration. Beneath the children’s shade awning, a brand-new wooden deck is being installed, complete with extra-large planters that will allow even more greenery to grow. To increase the natural feel of the space and give little ones a flat area to crawl and play, flooring made of red cedar rings will also be installed on either side of the deck. Stay tuned for more details and photographs!

Click on the images below to enlarge.

An overview of the infant/toddler playground before construction began.
An overview of the infant/toddler playground before construction began.
The akambira in the foreground will be relocated to make room for our new garden.
The akambira in the foreground will be relocated to make room for our new garden.
The site of our future garden—where a gated picket fence will be installed to allow teachers to guide and supervise play.
The site of our future garden—where a gated picket fence will be installed to allow teachers to guide and supervise play.
An up-close view of our shade awning before deck installation began.
An up-close view of our shade awning before deck installation began.
The groundwork for the new deck being laid.
The groundwork for the new deck being laid.
Planters are being constructed on either side of the deck to create a lush green space.
Planters are being constructed on either side of the deck to create a lush green space.


Lakeshore’s Nature Explore® Classroom Earns Certification

Connecting children to nature has powerful educational, developmental and behavioral benefits—like encouraging observation and problem solving skills, nurturing a concern for the environment and fighting the effects of childhood obesity through physical activity. One of Lakeshore’s most exciting projects in a long time is our new outdoor Nature Explore® Classroom at Kids & Company, our on-site preschool for employees’ children. It is the third California classroom and the 25th in the nation to be fully certified by the Arbor Day Foundation (ADF) and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation—and we couldn’t be more excited or proud of their accomplishment!

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