Diocesan News

Preschool a certified Nature Explore classroom

Cathedral of the Risen Christ receives national recognition

LINCOLN (SNR/CRC) — Cathedral of the Risen Christ School in Lincoln earned national recognition as a certified Nature Explore Classroom from the Nature Explore program, a collaboration of Dimensions Educational Research Foundation and the Arbor Day Foundation.

Nature Explore classrooms were developed by a team of master educators, landscape architects and researchers in response to the documented, growing disconnect between children and nature. The classrooms help fill the void with research-based, outdoor learning opportunities incorporated into children’s daily lives.

Cathedral offers a “Nature Explore” preschool program for children age 3-5. (Click for slideshow)

Cathedral School, which serves more than 350 students in grades pre-K through 8, built its Nature Explore preschool classroom in 2016, in part with funds from the diocesan “Joy of the Gospel” campaign.

Msgr. John Perkinton, diocesan superintendent of schools, said in an interview about the program last year that Cathedral principal Jeremy Ekeler performed “a wonderful amount of research in looking at the interplay between these programs and child learning and development.”

Heather Fox, director of communications and outreach for the Nature Explore program, said Cathedral’s commitment to the program “offers a wonderful example to programs and educators throughout the country.”

“These spaces inspire hands-on activity, creativity, play and plenty of time exploring the natural world,” she said.

Cathedral School is the 400th outdoor classroom to achieve certification through the Nature Explore program.

A qualifying outdoor classroom offers interactive elements such as musical instruments made of natural materials, garden or pathway areas, and natural materials for building and creating art, as recommended by research that shows children who learn and grow in Nature Explore classrooms exhibit enhanced concentration, develop creativity and problem solving techniques, manage stress in healthy ways and develop skills across the spectrum of academic and creative learning.

“It’s a wonderful combination of approach, professional development and environment,” said Cathedral preschool teacher Laura Johnson. “To place those three things upon our foundation of a vibrant Catholic faith formation is a true blessing to Cathedral and our community.

“The more we discover about nature’s impact on child development,” she added, “the more excited we get at the future of our ‘Eaglets’!”

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