Posts Tagged ‘Nature Explore’

Rooftop Fun 2

September 26th, 2013

libraryskullI estimated that nearly 500 people enjoyed the temporary Nature Explore Classroom on the roof of the Cedar Rapids Public Library September 7, 2013. We were celebrating the Family Connections Library Open House.

It was gorgeous weather for the farmer’s market and many took advantage of the day to find the 3rd floor green rooftop! We had hopscotch, a hollow log to crawl through, a labyrinth, musical instruments, dancing scarves, tree ‘cookies’, tree blocks, snake skins, bugs, and even a Percheron Horse skull!

IMG_4714My 7 year old friend, Devon, loaned his personal nature collection of fossils, a tree cookie and some cool rocks. It was fun to watch him share his wonder with other children and adults.

Every child and adult could take home a nature item to add to or begin their personal collection. Parents took home a sample of the Nature Explore Family Club materials so they could continue the exploration at home!

One of the favorite activities were the hammocks – Nature Explore tree house fabric tied to the railing, supplied with baskets of books.  Adults, teens and little ones sat, swung and read a new book cradled in the sturdy translucent fabric slings in 3 locations.

hammockYou can see what it looks like from inside one!

Our goal was to help families see how simple it is to provide focused activity areas that help children connect to nature and their wild side! Check out our Eco Family Facebook page for more photos!

Educators who want to learn how to design their outdoor classroom can attend workshops scheduled all over Iowa.   Check Nature Explore for one near you! Several Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Family Life Specialists are certified trainers.  If you don’t have one near you, contact us to get one scheduled!

What does your community have for outdoor learning spaces? Is there a certified Nature Explore Classroom near you?




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Rooftop Fun

September 5th, 2013

rooftopI am so pumped for Saturday! We get to host a temporary Nature Explore outdoor classroom on the green roof of the brand new Cedar Rapids Public Library! We will have a 6 activity areas – a spiral labyrinth music and movement area, a special set of natural science collections loaned by area children, nature art Andy Goldsworthy style, a habitat building area, reading hammocks, as well as hopscotch and a hollow ‘log’ to crawl through! Kids will also get to take home a natural treasure to add to their personal collections.

My friends and co-workers have been so generous collecting, loaning and donating items for this event.  I even have the Linn County Child Development Center loaning us items from their certified Nature Explore Classroom for others to experience that day. I have been planning the design for over a month. By walking and measuring and observing the green roof space a few times, I think we have the right combination of books, materials and activities for children to connect with nature. They will use all of their senses to experience the wind, the sun, the view of the unique Cedar Rapids architectural skyline and the magnificent trees of Green Square Park.

My ultimate goal is for parents, grandparents, child care providers, teachers and others to see how simple it is to arrange an outdoor space with a few inexpensive ‘props’ and lots of loose natural parts. Combine that with unstructured, unlimited time and kids have the perfect learning opportunity.

Now, the rooftop has its limits.  No dirt digging or sand piles.  No water play or rocks. No walking on the real plants (really – they are not durable for foot traffic) so we have to enjoy them with our eyes and hands (at the edges of the pathways).

The coolest part is I was able to design the activities based on what is naturally available – wind, sun, and lots of sky! So we will have waving grasses, dancing scarves, and pinwheels. We will use magnifying glasses, colored lenses and kaleidoscopes to gain new perspectives on the natural world. We will beat on drums, shake the rattles, tip the rain sticks and sound the chimes to send music wafting down to the Farmers Market below.

Hope to see you on the roof!




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Green Roof Inspires Joy

July 18th, 2013

CR Library Green Roof (5)I got a tour of the brand new Cedar Rapids Library Green Roof! It has amazing ecological features including the beautiful sea of sedum plants, state of the art water collection system and solar powered pump for irrigation. I will be creating a temporary Nature Explore classroom up there for the September 7 Grand Opening of the Family Connections Library, a collaboration of staff and resources to benefit families with young children. I will be telling you more about this later this summer.

It was exciting to stand up there and feel like I had the sky all to myself.  The robin’s egg blue sky and white puffy clouds immediately captured my attention. The brilliant green carpet of succulent sedum plants stretched out across the roof inviting my hesitant touch and sparking curiosity.  I wanted to see every corner of the space and linger where I could gaze far, far to the horizon. I imagined flying like a bird, privy to the scene of the tops of buildings and trees.

This experience took me directly back to my childhood- feeling the awe of discovering some new and marvelous outdoors. The feeling has an addictive quality, the desire to stay and explore, the flood of curiosity that rises in the mind, the tingling in my hands and feet to experience this new space. Happiness and gratitude flooded my chest and my face gave way to a great ear-to-ear grin. 

One of the goals of my work with Nature Explore is to help adults remember the joy they experience when they connect with nature so they can inspire that experience for the children in their life.  

I was so inspired by the openness and welcoming feeling of the green roof.  What outdoor places inspire this sense of awe in YOU?


Connection with Nature, Energy, Environment, Health, Water quality & conservation , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

My worms almost escaped!

March 21st, 2012

Yikes! My worms almost escaped! I usually feed the compost bin at my office on Thursdays or Fridays.  Last weeks goodies were especially juicy with wet coffee grounds, some melon chunks, oranges and larger chunks of sweet peppers. I thought the bedding was really dry so I snapped the lid on tight – it has airholes – and didn’t think another thing about it. 6 days later I looked and found many of my little friends gasping for air on the inside of the lid! The bedding is really soggy – so much so that I think I will take it outdoors to get some sun and dry out a tad. Sorry guys! Had I waited another day, I might have had a real mess!

It looks like it is time to harvest compost again!  The bin is really full which contributed to the moisture problem.  I think I will take the compost bin to my next Nature Explore workshop  and let participants ( kids and adults) try their hand at vermi-composting and take some worms home to start their own bin. If you live in eastern Iowa and would like to get started with a donation from one of my vermi-compost bins, give me a shout! I’m not in the business to ship, so you will have to pick them up.  I can get them to Cedar Rapids or Iowa City.  I will even let you harvest if you want to.  It is a relaxing and messy process so you don’t want to be in a hurry. If not, I am glad to do it and get a supply of  red wigglers for you to pick up.  I just ask that you study up, get your bin ready so they have a good home to go to.  Send me an email and I will send you some good reading material for your preparation!

Remember these are for INDOOR composting.  The red wigglers don’t do so well outdoors.  There are other ways to compost your waste outdoors.

I added my last batch of compost tea (the juice that seeps out of the bottom of the container) to the hybiscus tree in the house and she is flowering like CRAZY now!  I start my garden seeds in the castings and they germinate VERY quickly!  Food waste in the trash can creates methane in the landfill.  But it creates sweet smelling soil in the compost bin!  How will you turn fruit & vegetable waste into a resource this spring?

Kristi Cooper

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Time in Nature

October 27th, 2011

My youngest child is turning 21 today! I think of her as a toddler playing with the baby kittens at Grandma’s farm and as a preschooler she and the neighbor kids came in for  a snack covered in clay from a backyard mud slide! Do you remember digging tunnels in snowbanks? making “hideouts” in the lilac bushes? making mud pies or grass soup?

I have been teaching many Nature Explore workshops this fall and each time I remember more about my time outdoors as a child. I think about how much I learned abou the physics of snow and mud and I think I even learned  basic cooking and chemistry skills doing all of this in my early years.  My daughter is studying to be a landscape architect.  She is also an artist.  I can’t help but think that her early experiences with nautre have shaped her perspective on life and her love of the outdoors.

 Take a trip down memory lane! What are your earliest favorite memories of time outdoors as a child?  Can you link your early outdoor experiences with your life now?

Kristi Cooper

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