Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Outdoor Learning: Getting Started!

If you've been following for a bit, you may have noticed my New Year's resolution #3: Spend more time planning for, making use of and engaging the children in outdoor learning.  You may also have noticed that I was completely excited to be able to sign up for the workshop on outdoor learning with the speaker Claire Warden (http://www.mindstretchers.co.uk/).  We're on a mission!  We're on a mission to encourage the children to interact with the outdoor environment in a more in-depth way than they are doing currently.  Which, I admit, at this point, is pretty basic.
Yesterday, we went on a nature walk around the school.  We explored the size of the trees, the leaves and watched the squirrels.
Another preschool teacher and I will be attending this workshop and are also beginning the very first steps in making real use of the outdoors near our school.  Unfortunately, our school is located in an area that is more typically industrial, with fewer safe places to walk and destinations to walk to than other early learning centers may have.  We've started brainstorming ideas, though.  And, although we may not be able to walk to many places, we agree we do have a very good start on a very natural and engaging outdoor learning area on our own school grounds.   
We went on a walk through the neighborhood near our school.  We heard dogs barking and birds singing.
Now, we just need to expand...we have a large amount a space we hope we can utilize to some extent.  We need to improve accessibility so ALL of our children can access as much as possible.  We also need to provide more loose materials for the children to manipulate, more surfaces and more plants.  Finally, we really need to just do some more "out of the box" thinking!  We are determined to spend more time exploring the environment around the school. 

 
 Yesterday we took a rather lengthy walk (at least lengthy for us) and the children did a wonderful job!  We explored the neighborhood around our school.  We explored various trees and plants in the area.  We listened for birds and heard dogs barking.  We found twigs, acorns, leaves and tree bark to bring back with us. Finally, we saw quite a few squirrels and were able to stay still enough to watch them running around the front yard of our school for a bit!

Below is a quick view of what we currently have in our outdoor learning area.
(Note: We are certainly NOT complaining.  This is a HUGE improvement in our outdoor area from what we have previously had access to.  However, we would like to make USE of what we have to a larger extent.  We also would like to add more plants, more green space, more loose materials and various textures and areas to explore!

The entrance to our outdoor learning area.  Behind this is
the play car and trike path.


Another view of the entrance.


     Our sand area with magnetic wall behind (we have magnetic
tubes to place on the board.)








Our tree stump jumping area with swings behind this and a
log balance beam to the side.




Our "tree platform house."  Beyond this is our climbing structure.






A view through our trellis with storage/trike sheds behind.


Grounds for Play helped us design and install our outdoor learning area.


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