“It is an immediate pleasure to see children’s enthusiasm as they build, create, and discover in these nature-rich spaces. Children’s lives are more joyful, and they will always have in them a nature inspired sense of wonder.” – John Rosenow
In 2009, as part of its corporate social responsibility initiative (Pink Changing Lives) and in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Mary Kay, in partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Education Research Foundation, began sponsoring the development of Nature Explore Classrooms at women’s shelters across the United States.
Nature Explore Classrooms are outdoor learning spaces designed to incorporate nature in to children’s lives and have been found to be greatly beneficial for children affected by domestic violence.
Research done by environmental psychologist Dr. Nancy Wells has revealed that nature acts as a buffer of life-stress for children. Wells found that “having nature close to a home protects the psychological well-being of children. And the impact is strongest for children with the highest levels of stressful life events. In addition, having green space around the home boosts their cognitive functioning”, encourages resilience, and supports healthy development.
Nature Explore Classrooms consist of building, climbing, music and movement, nature art, garden and greenhouse, gathering, and messy areas. Children can lose themselves in the calming activity of arranging natural materials such as pine cones, seed pods, or seashells in the Nature Art Area, or alleviate stress through climbing, crawling, and balancing in the Climbing Area. The Gardening and Greenhouse Area involves children in gardening and develops a sense of wonder about the world, growth, and new beginnings, while the Messy Area expands a child’s curiosity and imagination and gives them a sense of accomplishment by allowing them to dig for snails and worms or build with natural materials.
Each Nature Explore Classroom’s design is unique to fulfilling the shared purpose of enabling children to experience the joy, wonder, excitement, and peacefulness of discovery, fresh air, and pure play in outdoor splendor.
Mary Kay Inc. and The Mary Kay Foundation’s partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation led the way in 2009 as the first Nature Explore Classroom extolling the healing powers of nature to ever be constructed at U.S. domestic violence shelters. By the end of 2012, Mary Kay will have sponsored a total of 17 Nature Explore Classrooms.
The impact Mary Kay has had for victims of domestic abuse by partnering with the Arbor Day Foundation can be seen in the following video. This clip is testimony to the benefits of a quiet, safe and fun place for children to learn, play and heal. Nature Explore Classrooms “provide a connection to nature that keeps people connected to the best in themselves and battles trauma and tragedy with play and purpose.”