Outdoor Environment

We've talked about science and science outdoors.  How about the environment?

Here's the thing about outdoor environments in preschool...they are NOT elementary school yards!  We are not on "recess"!  This is not the time for the teachers to hang out and chit-chat to each other while the children run around like chickens with their heads cut off!

No, the outdoor environment MUST be a place for the children to extend curriculum and learning!  As a matter of fact, I am under the impression (from my years of experience, not any research I have read...although there might be some out there, link it to me if you know of any) that children do MORE learning outside than inside.

The outdoor environment must be an extension of the indoor environment.  An additional place to learn.

You need to put as much thought into the outdoor space as you put in the indoor space.  Wait, scratch that.  You need to put as much thought into the outdoor space as you should be putting in the indoor space.

You need to change things up.  Will the children play with buckets and shovels in the sandbox everyday?  Sure!  Because they're there!  But what if you put out shovels and sand sifters only and hide treasures in the sand? 

Add to that activity and put a poster grid up next to the sand box so when they find a treasure they need to tape the item they found/draw a picture of the item/write the letter of the the item/ etc... on the grid!

I'm telling you, they will eat it up!

The key is to change up what is going on outside.  Make it interesting. 

Will they play with the same old toys outside the same old way and be happy about it?  Of course!  They're children and they will always find something to do no matter what.  But how much better will it be when we give them something so exciting to do that changes things up?


CreativeSTAR said...

Hello Jenni

This is a very valid point. In England, it is now expected that pre-schools allow children to access both the indoor and outdoor environments simultaneously and that the outdoor area will extend and enrich the indoor learning experiences.

There is also strong research from Scandinavia about the benefits of outdoor kindergartens where children are outside all year round for at least 80% of the time. Having visited several such nurseries in Sweden (see the case studies in the resource section of my website www.creativestarlearning.co.uk) I have witnessed the differences which have completely altered my view on quality pre-school learning environments.

Best wishes

Jenni said...

I love an open door policy. About 6 years ago I worked in a center where two classrooms were connected through the bathroom and shared a yard. The teacher in the other room and I had a great system where the children were able to move between our two room and the outdoor environment for the entire free choice block of time. That was TWO HOURS where the children could choose the activities and environment that suited their needs best. Much of the time was spent outside because that's where children at this age gravitate to.

Unfortunately that's the exception and not the rule around here and there's always an excuse as to why we can't do it. I think everyone knows that it's the best way but you hear, "Yes, it's a great idea in a 'dream world'; but it's just not feasable" rather than "yes, it's the ideal, HOW can we reach it!"