Students at a number of LAUSD pre-schools can learn about the environment in special nature explore classrooms

PACOIMA, LOS ANGELES (KABC) — Earth Day isn’t just celebrated once a year for students at Haddon Avenue Early Education Center in Pacoima. Every day, students play outside in their nature explore classroom.

“I like to find things like bees, or rollie pollies, or worms,” 5-year-old Noah Ocampo said.

This classroom was in the works for two years and was finished this March. LAUSD has this program at 17 different schools now, transforming outdoor spaces and blacktops into interactive learning centers.

“It’s really been an extension of the classroom,” said teacher assistant Liz Fonticiella. “We’ve had the opportunity to learn a lot about how to take care of our planet, as far as learning how to plant our trees.”

In the nature explore classroom, the young students are able to dig in the dirt and learn about plants and the environment.

“Early Education is a place where the children start their knowledge. So, this environment is perfect for them to learn and have value of the earth,” said teacher assistant Silvia Penaloza.

When the kids go to the garden area, they learn how to grow different fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumbers. And once they are ready to be picked, the kids will then have an opportunity to eat them.

“It’s also taught them patience because we have to record them day by day and see the growth,” Fonticiella said. “It’s easier to show them than to just show them a book and explain to them when they could see it and touch it and experience it.”

Staff members at the education center say the nature explore classroom is specifically designed to be calming and nurturing for the students.

“We were catching butterflies and I got it, but it left,” said 4-year-old Emma Ramirez.

“I’m just very grateful that the district is moving in this direction and giving us the opportunity in these beautiful yards because it not only impacts the learning, it impacts the social, emotional well-being of the students,” Principal Christine Morrison said.

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