The Eagle’s Nest Play to Learn Center in Mildred has earned national recognition as a Certified Nature Explore Classroom from the Nature Explore program, a division of nonprofit Dimensions Educational Research Foundation.

This certification gives The Eagle’s Nest Play to Learn Center a number of benefits, including membership in an ever-expanding network of more than 500 like-minded spaces nationwide. Certified Nature Explore Classrooms foster highly effective, nature-based outdoor learning.

“I am excited to be the first Certified Nature Explore Classroom in Navarro County,” owner Deb Tamez stated.

According to Tamez, earning this distinction took months of planning.

“I started the process when we first opened in October of 2020,” she stated. “To become a Certified Nature Classroom, Nature Explore requires your program to meet certain criteria set in place for creating an outdoor classroom.”

Examples of some of the requirements include offering an open area for large motor activities, a climbing area, a space for messy materials and play, nature art, music and movement, and a garden.

Accomplishing a minimum of 10 guiding principles required for this certification, The Eagle's Nest Play to Learn Center was awarded the certification in March.

“Owner, Deb Tamez’ commitment to providing research-based and nature-rich learning offers a wonderful example to programs and educators throughout the country,” stated Heather Fox, director of communications and outreach for the Nature Explore program.

“These spaces inspire hands-on activity, creativity, play and plenty of time exploring the natural world for children of all ages.”

These unique outdoor classrooms offer interactive, open-ended materials and elements that allow them to use their creativity, imaginations and initiative.

Research consistently shows that 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.

“I chose to go the nature-based route because studies and research show when children are given the opportunities to explore the world around them, their social/emotional, physical, social and cognitive development are enhanced,” Tamez stated. “As a mom and an educator of young children, who wouldn't want an amazing opportunity like this for their child?”

The Tamez family moved to Navarro County in 2018 because they wanted to offer their own children the opportunity to explore nature on their wooded property.

Now, as the owner of the newly built learning center in Mildred, Tamez can offer the same opportunity to young children in the county.

“We have a small indoor classroom with a large outdoor classroom and 13 acres of raw land to explore on our weekly nature hikes,” she stated.

“I'm grateful for the families who understand my passion for nature based learning and chose to join me on this journey! Their children – my preschoolers – are enjoying the program because they are learning through nature and play, as all children should.”

Including her nature and play-based preschool program, there are approximately 37 Certified Nature Explore Classrooms in the state of Texas.

Nature Explore Classrooms have been 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 this void by integrating research-based outdoor learning opportunities into children’s daily lives.

Classrooms designed according to standards and principles described in Dimensions Educational Research Foundation’s Learning With Nature Idea Book are eligible to become Certified Nature Explore Classrooms.

More information about The Eagle’s Nest Play to Learn Center may be found at certified.natureexplore.org/the-eagles-nest-play-to-learn-center/ or www.facebook.com/EaglesNestMildred and www.eaglesnestmildred.com/

About Dimensions Educational Research Foundation:

The mission of the Dimensions Educational Research Foundation is to transform children's lives through meaningful daily connections with nature. Its Nature Explore team provides research-based outdoor classroom design services, educator workshops and natural products. More information about Dimensions is available at http://www.dimensionsfoundation.org/

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