It Not "Just Recess" Anymore!

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!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

If You Build It, They Will Come

In my last post I talked about extending activities rather than "ditching" them when children appeared uninterested in an object or activity. So today, I decided to test out the theory again. This time it was our set of "tree blocks"in which I wanted to spark some interest.
I have put these blocks in our play yard several times for the children; and for several times, they weren't interested. At all. To be honest, I was shocked. I personally love the blocks! I mean, don't the children know that natural materials are all the rage? Don't they understand that playing with natural items will help them gain the much-needed and much-talked about connection with nature that the children of today so desperately need? I guess not. Let's face it...they are in it for the fun. It is the teachers who are in it for the philosophy. That said, it is up to us to "camouflage" the philosophy with "fun".
So, it was up to our storage room I went to find something interesting to add to the tree blocks. I walked into the "science room" and stumbled upon a bin of forest animals. These could definitely add some life to the blocks! This time, I put the blocks on our patio where our "older" pod (3-5yrs) can choose to play during their free choice time. Before the children arrived in the morning, I set up the table to look like a little forest with animals peering around corners and hiding under the blocks. As the children passed by on their way to class I could already hear them chatting to their parents about the forest table.

At first, only one child went to the table. It was a start. He asked me to play, so I sat with him and we enjoyed playing with the creatures and talking about the various types of animals on display. Slowly, several others joined the fun and soon I was able to back out and watch as their play unfolded.

They worked cooperatively for more than half an hour and created some very clever structures with the blocks. They called me over to see their creations. They were positively thrilled with themselves!

During the same play period, my coworker came over and commented on how his 3 year olds were not playing with the brand-new hollow blocks we just purchased. He is an extremely insightful teacher, so quoting Kevin Costner from Field of Dreams as he walked, he went over and built a great something...and the children came.

Ahhh, success!

These structures were made by the 3's class...after the teacher left!


  1. All it takes sometimes Kristen is to simply 'plant the seed'. I love it when it eventually takes off and spreads like wildfire!
    Donna :) :)

  2. Thanks for the comment, Donna! The 'plant the seed' theory has certainly proven effective this week! I have been to your site many times and have enjoyed learning from your experiences.

  3. So great! I love reading your posts! These "little" interventions make such a great difference! Thank you!