Monday, March 28, 2011

Visiting a Nearby Outdoor Classroom

We've struggled a bit to get moving with developing our outdoor classroom.  While we have a great base; we just needed a bit more "umph" and some nice warm weather like we have been having currently, to get going!  The other day, another teacher and I made a little trip to an early childhood center not far from our location.  The Children's Campus is already Nature Classroom Certified and has done a great deal of the foundation work for this that we are just beginning.  All of the photos below come from their Nature Classroom.  Keep in mind, it is still a bit cold here- so no plants are really visible on these photos!
Their Group time Area.  We are planning to buy the same cedar benches as these.
We were able to get a very good idea of what we could realistically do!  Because they are located in the same area we are, we know we will need to follow similar safety guidelines.  Seeing what they have done, what large items they have purchased and how they have stored items was invaluable!
Their Loose parts/building Area
Since our visit, we have brainstormed a "dream plan" :) of large and small items I believe we could collect, make or have made for us, have donated or may need to purchase.  We are sending home letters to parents to get more input and awareness about the project, as well as funding.  We need to develop more of our loose parts/building area.  We need to continue to expand on our music area.  We need to develop an art area and a group time area!  I know, I know...we're just starting with small areas first!  
Their Music Area
One of our big projects that we want to begin soon is developing a garden!  We've had small garden plots in the past for the children, but we've never had one right next to our outdoor learning area.  Locating directly outside of our area would be ideal as it would give very easy access and the children can be directly involved in every process on a daily basis!

One of our biggest challenges with all of this is reducing the amount of vandalism that occurs with any loose items.  Generally, anytime we put something that is not securely attached and padlocked outside, it will disappear before morning (something the above pictures of the other center do not show- as they do not have this issue). 
 I've also done some brainstorming on this issue. We have several "trike storage sheds". These are long and low. I think we could slide a shelf directly into one of these with all of the loose parts/ or an art shelf on it. Before we come out, one of us would need to go out, and literally "re-design" the outdoor area! We would need to pull shelves out of sheds, loose items for dramatic play, loose parts for building, an art shelf, hand held musical instruments, colored cloth and more. It does sound a bit daunting, but if this is something we value, this is most likely the way we will need to do this! Also, if we are spending at least 60 min. outdoors daily with the children this makes it worth our time to re-design daily.

I will post as we begin developing an area!  I can't wait to begin our collection of loose parts (and I'm sure the children will find this wonderful as well), find an unused shelf and see if my idea of sliding this into the trike shed will work!  I'm on Spring Break right now, so my idea will have to wait until next week!  I'll be back next week sometime with an update!

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