Wednesday, December 8, 2010

On the Move...Lifelong Learning!

I was so excited to receive an e-mail the other day inviting me (OK- not JUST me. I'm sure lots of people were "invited") to a workshop on outdoor learning!   If there is one thing we are probably lacking most in our preschool program it is outdoor LEARNING.  We diligently go outside or to the gym each day for our large motor time.  Unfortunately, it often ends up with children wandering aimlessly about until an adult directs them, running and chasing friends or running from one stationary item to another.

Of course, we also see some wonderful and very imaginative dramatic play.  We also are the beneficiaries of  a wonderful outdoor learning area!  It's beautiful in fact!  It includes many natural elements:  a natural sand area (with beautiful natural logs to enclose it), a "tree house" and natural stumps to jump from.  The problem seems to be that all of these wonderful natural elements have already been set up, are attached and unmovable, and appear to the children to already have a specific purpose.  The children use them in the way they were intended to be used...and rarely move beyond this.  We are certainly not enhancing their play or teaching them to be creative problem solvers in this way.

I have attempted to broaden the children's level of engagement by bringing out various items: an easel and paint (big hit of course!), clay and craft sticks (again, a big hit) and various other "set up" activities to bring some of the indoors to the outdoors and create more of a center work time.  However, this is still very isolated and doesn't go far beyond the items and the area that I have placed them.  I think since these are such "set up" experiences they don't necessarily engage the children in the same way that more time, space and encouragement to explore the entire environment would do.  When children view the outdoors as simply an extension of their learning area, there is definitely a different feeling and level of exploration involved. 

If you know me at all, you know I love making use of technology with the children: in the classroom, in the use of assistive technology and to provide supports for communication.  However, with children spending so many of their waking hours in front of the television, using computers and other technology, I do think it is so important to help children develop and maintain a connection with the outdoors.  Our children really miss a key component of growing up healthy and happy when they are isolated from nature or are outdoors in such limited amounts of time.  Just because it often does not come naturally for children with the availability of so much technology; it is even MORE important for adults to show their own appreciation and love of nature and demonstrate to the children how important this is for a healthy and happy life.

Claire Warden (http://www.mindstretchers.co.uk/) is the speaker for this workshop.  For full disclosure, I have not yet read her books.  A few of them are: The Potential of a Puddle, The Right to Be Me, Nurture through Nature and Nature Kindergartens.   But, you better bet I will be visiting this site and reading up before this workshop at the end of January!   After a very brief look at the website, I am clearly intrigued!  I'm sure I have SO much to learn!

I feel like we've just scratched the surface of our potential for outdoor learning in our program!  It took us many years to even obtain a beautiful, natural and appropriate outdoor learning area...now, we just need to make REAL use of the entire outdoors!

Grab the "How Long is this Hall" Button!

HowLongisthishall?!
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