Childhood Research

We pride ourselves on conducting and presenting qualitative research that is focused on early childhood education and the natural outdoor classroom. For the past eight years, whether working in partnership with Dimensions Educational Research Foundation or independently, the CEC investigates experiences that children and teachers have in well-designed and maintained natural outdoor classrooms, integrating the CEC’s environments, teachers, and children as participants. Recent studies document learning and skill development in infant, toddler and preschool children, the impact of quality teacher engagement, and how curriculum that fosters creativity and imagination positively impacts the development of executive function skills and critical thinking. The findings from our research informs and positively impacts our work with children on a daily basis, further refining and enhancing our philosophy of holistic care and education.

Our most recent research paper, Playing with Nature: Supporting Preschoolers’ Creativity in Natural Outdoor Classrooms, written by CEC’s Preschool Program Director Ellen Veselack and Christine Kiewra of Dimensions, was published in the October 2016 issue of The International Journal of Early Childhood Environmental Education, from the North American Association for Environmental Education. This research asks the question “How do natural outdoor classrooms support children’s imagination and creativity?” For more information about CEC’s research in early childhood education, please contact Lisa Cain-Chang or Ellen Veselack.


Nature Notes are observations by teachers of interesting or significant experiences children are engaged in or experiencing. These serve as the primary source of data for our qualitative research, which are collected and analyzed for key themes and trends.