Current Research Initiatives

The outdoor environment is a rich context for mathematical learning as well as learning in other academic domains. This paper highlights the natural materials and experiences available to children in a Certified Nature Explore Classroom that support the development of mathematical concepts such as classification, sorting, patterns, measuring, counting and comparison.

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This single case study explores the role of early childhood educators who serve as co-researchers in an early education program that has a strong nature/environmental emphasis. The data teachers collect and analyze are used to continually improve classroom practice and Nature Explore resources and services. Teachers are considered "participant-observers" because along with their co- researcher roles, they participate simultaneously as fully functioning members of this teaching and learning community. Besides their primary role as teachers, they are also the “human instruments” that closely observe children and document their experiences. This is an action research model in which teacher/co-

researchers make the connection between theory and practice. This paper describes both the ongoing research Dimensions has conducted for the past ten years (i.e., the holistic case study), AND the specific research that explores teachers’ perceptions of the teacher/co-researcher role (i.e., the embedded case study). Both are discussed because understanding the larger context of our research is central to understanding teachers’ involvement as co-researchers.

Parents from the Dimensions Research site in Forest Lake, Minnesota described the many benefits of regular time in nature including improved sleep habits in children, cardiovascular health, increased physical strength, a greater sense of calm and focus, improved mood, a belief that there are fewer germs outdoors than indoors, and a belief that outdoor play gave their children opportunities to exercise distance vision and absorb healthy amounts of Vitamin D.

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This research, conducted in one Nature Explore Classroom at the Child Educational Center in California, focused on: 1) the skills children were developing during child-initiated experiences outdoors and 2) the roles the environment and teachers played in supporting young children’s learning. The grand tour research question that guided the inquiry was, “How does young children's engagement in child-initiated activities in the Nature Explore Classroom facilitate skill development?" This research makes an important contribution to the current literature base, because few studies have focused specifically on preschool-age children’s skill development in outdoor environments, such as intentionally designed Certified Nature Explore Classrooms.

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This position paper from early Dimensions Foundation work describes a rationale for developmentally appropriate environmental education. A short synopsis of research describes the factors contributing to children’s disconnection from the natural world.

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This document summarizes four years of data collection and analysis conducted by Dimensions’ Executive Director, teachers, an architect consultant, and qualitative research specialists. The insights note the impact of visual images and a visual note-taking technique especially as it relates to gender and children with special needs.

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Published internally as a supplement to the Dimensions’ Education Programs Parent Newsletter. This piece summarizes some of the key findings based on the analysis of teachers’ early visual-notes. It includes samples of children and teachers’ sketches, and sample categories from the Construction Typology.

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