Welcome to the real world: developing hands-on activities for the love of the Earth and her Children.
Many area agencies have helped the Nature Center grow as well, assisting in donations to the school: OSU extension, Keep Cincinnati Beautiful, Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Hamilton County Solid Waste Division, Westwood/Cheviot Kiwanis. Tremendous support has been given by the Ohio Environmental Education Fund allowing the development, practice, and teacher training of a comprehensive outdoor education program.
Every few years we like to retell the story.
- In 1990, Carson School in Price Hill became the Montessori magnet school for Quadrant 1 of CPS. Once the highly energized school community learned that the adjacent wooded, one-acre lot was CPS property, they cleared it, then added plantings and a teaching deck. The Carson Montessori Nature Center blossomed there.
- By 1996, it was clear that staff needed assistance to fully utilize what the outdoor Land Lab had to offer. The ENCASE (Enjoying Nature Center As School Extension) Program was developed and classrooms began making monthly visits. The extracurricular Nature Club was founded and school-wide recycling was institutionalized.
- In 2001, Carson Montessori moved to the Dater site to accommodate expanding enrollment. With renewed energy and full sun, the Dater Montessori Nature Center flourished.
- From 2002-05, the monthly lessons were organized into a voluminous book of more than 80 activities.
- In 2005, Susan Vonderhaar was awarded "Environmental Educator of the Year" by the Greater Cincinnati Earth Day Coalition and the Nature Center was the highlight of the Civic Garden Center's Neighborhood Gardens Tour.
- In 2006-07, Dater junior high students were trained as mentors to help teachers in the outdoor classroom. The first annual Nature Camp sprang up in June and Family Fun Nights bloomed on Wednesday evenings.
- 2007 was an award-winning year at the national level. Susan Vonderhaar won "Scott's Classroom Gardener of the Year Award" and the Nature Center received a Youth Garden Programs Award from the National Gardening Association. But Susan did not do all this on her own. The input and dedication of Kyra McKinney and Maureen DiCarlo have been a significant factor in the development of this whole venture.
Dater has selected a Green and Healthy Living focus for its new Community Learning Center. The Nature Center will be expanding its programming beyond the school day. Community programming this year includes Family Fun Nights on Wednesday throughout the summer. Beginning in September, the Healthy/Active Lifestyles programs will be on the first Friday of the month; and a gardening seminar series on the second Saturday of the month. These programs are free and open to the public.
Today, we need help to keep the Nature Center alive. One of the many great things about the ENCASE (Enjoying Nature Center As School Extention) curriculum is its adaptability. Although it was developed for the Dater site, most of the activities can be done anywhere, even indoors (if you really must!). We need you: parents, grandparents, community members interested in nature to help coordinate and manage seasonal nature activities. Nature Center activities are incorporated into the teacher's lesson plans.
For more information, contact the Dater Nature Center or visit the Dater Nature Center Facebook page.