At Shady Oak, we know that learning is acquired as much through our environment as it is through the people in our lives. Because our natural environment has so much to teach us, the teachers and staff at Shady Oak draw on the outdoors as much as possible to instill a sense of wonder and curiosity in children as well as to let Nature be the teacher.
Shady Oak is known locally, throughout Texas, and the U.S. for it's natural "playscape" playground. In 2003, Rusty Keeler, nationally-known playground consultant, worked with us to create a wonderful outdoor space that attracts adults as well as children. Visitors from all over the Houston area, including local college students, have come to tour and study the components of a "play environment for the soul". Our Preschool playground is the only Texas playground featured in Rusty's beautiful book, Natural Playscapes (Exchange Press, 2008).
Every aspect of our natural playscape is designed with the intention to stimulate a child's innate curiosity and give them a space to "live out the ideas so many of them have tumbling around in their heads" (Natural Playscapes 2008).
From sliding down the "mountain" created entirely by parent volunteers who worked to haul in dirt and compact layer upon layer with rented equipment....
... To hiding out in the ivy-covered cozy tunnel .... zooming through the jungle in a speedy red boat .... and cooking up something in the mud kitchen ....
Shady Oak kids have an outdoor space that empowers them by speaking directly to their imaginations and gives them (safe) autonomy to explore, create, take risks, build, design, plan, engage their peers, and lead - all characteristics that will serve them into adulthood.
At Shady Oak our outdoor space reminds us that Nature is our first teacher and "it seems that everyone connected to the habitat - parents, grandparents, staff members, neighbors taking walks, the mailman, and most of all, the children - is benefitting from the creation of a space designed to enhance the total human being" (Natural Playscapes 2008).