Students explore community, science in the new Brim Family Outdoor Learning Center.

Under the Branches

It’s not a playground.

It’s a science lab and an outdoor mecca for imagination and learning.

This fall, the Pacific University Early Learning Community opened the Brim Family Outdoor Learning Center — sometimes known by the school’s young students as the Cedar Classroom.

Featuring a large cedar tree, a bridge and waterway, lots of natural climbing structures, and a mix of natural elements, the Brim Family Outdoor Learning Center is a space for young students to learn and grow through play and exploration and for future teachers to steep themselves in the best practices in early childhood education.

The ELC is a preschool through second-grade school on Pacific’s Forest Grove Campus. Operated by the College of Education, it offers high-quality early childhood education to youth from Forest Grove and surrounding communities. It also serves as a demonstration site and practicum location for students in Pacific’s College of Education.

The new outdoor classroom is the latest incarnation of the ELC’s philosophy — one that focuses on play and community as the foundations of early learning. The classroom is a place where children explore the natural world, pose and test scientific hypotheses, and learn to become stewards of their environment and communities.

As a demonstration and practicum site, it also gives future teachers a place to test lessons and pedagogy as they learn best practices that they will carry into public and private schools throughout the state and nation.

Though many donors contributed to making the learning space a reality, none were as committed as Evie Brim. Brim and her late husband, Gene, have a long history of supporting Pacific and its students, giving to efforts ranging from Hillsboro Campus facilities to scholarships. Brim is a university trustee, as is her daughter, Julia Brim-Edwards.

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