Outdoor learning environment initiative launches at Arapaho United Methodist Church in Richardson

Mayor Paul Voelker and City Council member Janet DePuy join associate professors from Texas Tech University Charles Klein and Kristi Gaines for the launch of OLE! Texas in DFW. The event was hosted by Kara Ross, director of the mother's day out and day school program at Arapaho Methodist United Church, and several preschool teachers in their soon-to-be renovated outdoor play space.

Mayor Paul Voelker and City Council member Janet DePuy join associate professors from Texas Tech University Charles Klein and Kristi Gaines for the launch of OLE! Texas in DFW. The event was hosted by Kara Ross, director of the mother's day out and day school program at Arapaho Methodist United Church, and several preschool teachers in their soon-to-be renovated outdoor play space.

The day school and mother's day out program at Arapaho United Methodist Church in Richardson will be the first Dallas-Fort Worth location to incorporate a state-sponsored outdoor learning program.

OLE! Texas is a state health department initiative that seeks to increase childhood activity and food awareness by improving outdoor spaces at child care centers, according to its website. Demonstration sites can be found in Austin, Harris County, Lubbock and San Antonio.

The OLE! program, which stands for Outdoor Learning Environment, is based on research from the Natural Learning Initiative that shows outdoor learning can reduce sedentary behavior, increase concentration, promote activity, reduce stress and introduce healthy food choices.

On June 25, city leaders met with OLE! Texas leaders to discuss design plans for the outdoor play space.

Planned amenities include a composting pit, garden, sensory walk, rain garden, mud kitchen, rope climbing net, stepping stones, flowering tunnels and a wooden stage.

"We’re creating a play space where our students learn responsibility in caring for a garden from seed to fruit, where they rely on imagination and ingenuity to create and build, and where together, we can take in the fresh air and marvel in the wonder of the world around us," said Kara Ross, director of Arapaho Methodist Day School and Mother's Day Out.

Work on the outdoor learning environment will be done in stages and could take up to two years to complete, according to church officials.
By Olivia Lueckemeyer
Olivia Lueckemeyer graduated in 2013 from Loyola University New Orleans with a degree in journalism. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in October 2016 as reporter for the Southwest Austin edition before her promotion to editor in March 2017. In July 2018 she returned home to the Dallas area and became editor of the Richardson edition.


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