Teachers often heave a sigh of relief when they take their students out to recess. Finally! The children can burn off the pent up energy they had been accruing for the past few hours indoors. But what if we change our outlook on outdoor play time? What if we create an outdoor environment that offered all of the learning opportunities that one would typically find indoors? What if children could run out to a well-planned play yard to find experiences in math, science, nature, dramatic play, water, building and construction, sensory activities, physical development, art and music? What if they play yard developed critical thinking, discovery, problem solving, and cooperative skills? The result would be that we wouldn't have "just recess" anymore. We would have The Outdoor Classroom!
Sunday, October 9, 2011
Exploring the Outdoor Classroom...in the Backyard
Like many teachers, my job isn't finished when I exit the doors of the school. In addition to being the Outdoor Curriculum Coordinator at the preschool, I am the mother of 2 boys, ages 5 ("W") & 7 ("C"). And so, as I exit one door, I enter another.
This week I decided to buy 9 rods of 10 foot PVC pipes (1/2" diameter) and a bunch of assorted connectors for the school. I purchased it from my local hardware store and spent about $60.00 for the lot. They graciously offered to cut it for me, but when they asked what lengths I wanted, my answer was, "I'm not sure! Enough to build forts, sprinklers, water play pipes, marble runners, pendulums....". At that, the man suggested I purchase a PVC cutter. They have those? Awesome!
My intention was to see what I could think up at home, and then bring the PVC to school to use with the children next week (be sure to check back as I will be posting ample photos of the activities since I now have a few thoughts up my sleeve). However, as I was snipping the pipes with my oh-so-awesome PVC cutter (highly recommended, by the way!), I noticed my stocks were dwindling. In fact, every time I cut a new piece, it would walk away into the other room with one of my boys. They were having a blast discovering their new "toys!" In watching their creations, I learned which pieces were effective and which pieces we were in need of purchasing (such as the tri-corner connectors and several clamps...a definite must-have).
This weekend we decided to take the pipes outside since C was upset that I had to dismantel his fort in order to walk through the living room! Go figure! W and I made a "shower" from the pipes yesterday. It worked well, but if we are to use them with water again, I definitely need to purchase some end caps to stop the flowing water from coming out the bottom pipes. He also took smaller sections and made them into a snorkel for his bath later on (he was freezing after the outdoor PVC shower!). Today, C came out to join the fun and he built a huge fort. We covered it with a tarp and a bedsheet and the play began.
We then decided to add the dryer box that we obtained with our new dryer the other day. They played all morning in their creation. When the play dwindled, we added some of that REALLY COOL cardboard packing "stuff" that comes in boxes to hold items in place (we got a bunch with our new vacuum). As "C" saw me throw the cardboard into his side of the fort, he exclaimed, "COOL! I got the Star Wars side!". I believe he was transforming the cardboard into a likeness of the homes on the planet Tatooine!
At the end of their play session, I tossed in a bunch of large bubble wrap. They popped it with their fingers and then we laid it on the ground. What a sensation to run across the bubbles and hear them popping as they ran, hopped and skipped across the snapping plastic!!
They exhausted themselves with the bubbles and plunked back into the fort to recuperate. W let out a happy sigh and I hear him say quietly, "You are the best Mommy ever." And then Mommy let out a happy sigh :-).