Outdoor Environments



Our Playscape is a certified Nature Explore Classroom and the 2013 Southern Early Childhood Association’s winner of their Exemplary Outdoor Classroom contest.  While it’s wonderful to be recognized and honored for our imaginative and creative design, watching the children immersed in nature is the real reward for our hard work. 

Taking a tour around our Playscape is like taking a trip around the Chattanooga area. All of our elements represent the familiar landmarks of our beautiful river city. The centerpiece is the Tennessee River. The soothing sound of its rushing water covers our enchanting garden with its peacefulness. The children can enjoy a picnic on the River Park patio, where one group of children drew an enlargement of our logo and impressed it in the wet cement. Music comes alive in the Chattanooga Symphony, which features an Ipe wood marimba and Djembe drum among the many instruments. Performances can be watched from the RiverBend Amphitheater. The Ruby Falls reading cave is a cozy place to look at books. Our tire pony swings and authentic horse saddle await riders in our interpretation of the Coolidge Park Carousel. Maybe a stop at Lake Chickamauga will be enjoyed as the tourist plays with the Waterfront Water Cannons. Our Lookout Mountain tire climbing wall can be ascended, the Walnut Street Walking Bridge crossed, or the bear hunt trail hiked through the Great Smoky Mountains. The sandy river bottom, muddy river banks, and a cave can be explored in the Tennessee Aquarium area. Here fossils can be excavated and animal pawprints identified. Artistic pursuits can be followed in the Arts District outdoor art studio. Amazing views can be seen from the Incline Railway Station House. This fanciful trek ends in a downhill race on the twin Alpine Slides. 


Nature Paths

We are blessed to be sitting on five acres! This provides hiking trails on both sides of Highland Way. Our upper trail has three different trails with one zig- zagging down the hill that we call the "W Road". Our hiking trails offer multitudes of learning opportunities. Children often find turtles, birds, lizards, interesting insects and much more. Hands-on learning in nature is the best and most memorable  learning! 

We are able to observe seasonal changes in the woods. Turning leaves, patches of ice in the fist semester. The second semester provides lots of watching spring arrive from the forest floor to the tree tops.  Summer campers sometimes roast hot dogs at the fire pit. Our annual Family Campfire event occurs here each fall, as well as exciting sensory experiences during our Pumpkin Festival.  Every May we wrap up the school year with a Family Farewell Picnic. Families come to eat, hike and fellowship.


Container Gardens

The area behind our Starshine Friends and Sunshine Gang classrooms is a wonderful area to grow flowers, herbs, vegetables, blueberries, and more. The rain barrel collects water running off of the shed and provides a handy resource for watering the thirsty plants. The mudpie kitchen is a favorite place to cook a mean dirt stew.   The observation deck can transform into the foundation for a log cabin, be a stage for children learning how bees communicate through dancing, or whatever motivates the children’s explorations next. 



In the outdoor area adjacent to the Twinklers and Starshine Friends classes you can take a walk on the wild side through tall grasses that form a meandering maze. Along the way you can balance across a log, tiptoe around an alligator basking in the sun, hide out in the vine hut, or take a break on one of the boulders. Raised planter beds await our young gardeners’ green thumb touches. The discovery table might be a worm farm this month or a sod farm next month. Shhhh! Don’t wake the gator!



The Courtyard is a place to attract critters to feast on the giant tree stump by putting out seeds and corn, paint at the easel on a sunny day, yarn bomb one of the trees, watch the apple tree change through the seasons, plant flowers, or work on a clay sculpture. With doors connected to both the Atelier and the Rainbow Kids classrooms, it allows small groups to come together around the cement table for further investigation on an emerging interest.  


Twigs Atelier

Welcome to our outdoor studio space. Creative opportunities are supported with the array of traditional and nontraditional equipment and materials presented. Tables, chairs, and step stools, along with tabletop easels, clipboards, paper and markers provide the artist with basic supplies. Baskets of shells, seed pods, pebbles, and pine cones wait to be put to imaginative design. Our Atelierista regularly adds unusual materials to combine with the natural collections the children encounter here.