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School Embraces Nature With Unique Outdoor Classroom

From kid-height garden beds, to tree stump balance beams and a peace labyrinth promoting pint-sized mindfulness, A Children’s Habitat Montessori School is sowing seeds of learning with a new outdoor classroom.

The longest-running Montessori program in Indianapolis, A Children’s Habitat on the city’s northwest side is a nonprofit, parent-run school and full member of the American Montessori Academy serving children 18 months through age 12.

All ages will have the chance to explore the school’s new 20,000-square-foot outdoor classroom, funded in part by a $2,000 grant from the Whole Kids Foundation, a nonprofit launched by Whole Foods Market.

“This grant provides not only the necessary materials to continue and expand our gardening program, but also the hope and enthusiasm needed to sustain volunteer support and commitment,” says Habitat parent Suzanne Ratnayake, who helped apply for the grant. “It will give our children rich opportunities to discover through exploration, to wonder and ask questions and to learn patience and potential.”

OutdoorClassroom-109The first phase of the project included fencing off the space — which is separate from the school’s playground — and adding raised vegetable beds, a digging area and sandbox, flower gardens, bird observation area and peace labyrinth. The second phase will add rain barrels, a composter, a weather center with thermometer and rain gauge and more storage.

“This space is a natural extension of our indoor classrooms,” says School Administrator Carmen Nieves. “Beyond the organic development through seeing, smelling, hearing, feeling and tasting in the great outdoors, nature brings ripe lessons in botany, zoology and STEM in the most basic, pure ways.”

Those who take part in A Children’s Habitat’s popular summer camps will be among the first to learn exclusively in the outdoor space. Starting in July, Habitat will offer a three-week outdoor immersion camp utilizing the new space and engaging all three age groups — Early Years (18 months to 3 years), 3 to 6 years and elementary. More information about can be found on the school’s website:

The school plans to continue adding more features to the outdoor space, including climbing structures, a music area and possibly a beehive and chicken coop.

The public is invited to shop gently used children’s clothes, toys and books at A Children’s Habitat Stuff SWAP on March 19 from 9 a.m. to noon at the school, which is located at Pleasant View Lutheran Church at 801 W. 73rd St. All proceeds will benefit the outdoor classroom.


Maggie Loiselle is a regular writer for Indy’s Child and is a proud parent of a son who attends A Children’s Habitat Montessori School.

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