Kiddie Academy of Pasadena’s classes foster outdoor learning
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Kiddie Academy of Pasadena has earned national recognition as a certified Nature Explore classroom from the Nature Explore program, which is a division of nonprofit Dimensions Educational Research Foundation.

This certification confers on Kiddie Academy of Pasadena a number of benefits, including membership in a network of more than 500 like-minded spaces nationwide. Certified Nature Explore classrooms foster highly effective, nature-based outdoor learning.

“We were able to prove, with photography and with different descriptions, all the criteria that needed to be met,” said Christine Jennings, director, Kiddie Academy of Pasadena.

The academy boasts a building area, an art center and a garden.

“Kiddie Academy of Pasadena’s commitment to providing research-based and nature-rich learning offers a wonderful example to programs and educators throughout the country.” said Heather Fox, director of communications and outreach for the Nature Explore program.

“These spaces inspire hands-on activity, creativity, play and plenty of time exploring the natural world for children of all ages.”

The outdoor classrooms offer interactive, open-ended materials and elements that allow children to use their creativity, imaginations and initiative. Research consistently shows that children who learn and grow in Nature Explore classrooms exhibit enhanced concentration, develop creativity and problem-solving techniques, manage stress in healthy ways and develop skills across the spectrum of academic and creative learning.

Nature Explore classrooms have been developed by a team of master educators, landscape architects and researchers in response to the documented growing disconnect between children and nature, Fox said.

The classrooms help fill this void by integrating research-based outdoor learning opportunities into children’s daily lives. Classrooms that are designed according to standards and principles described in Dimensions Educational Research Foundation’s Learning with Nature Idea Book are eligible to become certified Nature Explore classrooms.

Kiddie Academy of Pasadena opened in February 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Jennings said initially the program had 15 families, but that dwindled to four because of the pandemic. It then rolled out its preschool-at-home programs, which are accessible on YouTube.

As of mid-January, Kiddie Academy of Pasadena built its enrollment to 63 families. The capacity is 95 families.

“We are very busy,” she said.

Kiddie Academy of Pasadena offers a play-based program with a curriculum called “Life Essentials.”

“What that touches upon are the various developmental domains that children need to touch on throughout the day,” Jennings said.

“For example, if the teacher notices the children are interested in Arctic animals because they’ve been talking about polar bears, they’ll use that knowledge and incorporate that into the theme of the week.”

The week would include Arctic-related projects in art, science and writing.

Jennings has been in child care for 20 years. She began her college career at California State University-Northridge studying journalism but switched to child development after she was required to spend time at a preschool.

“That sparked my interest,” said Jennings, who earned a Master of Arts in educational psychology, early childhood education in 2013.

Her experience includes time with Bright Horizons, STAR Education, Lakeshore Learning Materials and Les Enfants Infant Care and Preschool.

Jennings has specific goals for Kiddie Academy of Pasadena. She would like to increase the number of families who are enrolled.

“Our goals are to grow and provide the parents with the quality child care they do expect from us,” she said.  

Kiddie Academy of Pasadena

169 N. Halstead Street, Pasadena