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!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

More Fun With PVC

We have been playing with PVC pipes and connectors in our Outdoor Classroom for the past while. I put various sizes of pipes and connectors into a small dry paddling pool (set on top of a table) and let the children explore force and motion with marbles, ping pong balls and golf balls.

We rolled, launched, and even painted with the creations. After visiting Teacher Tom's site and seeing the exciting things he was doing with pendulums, I had fully intended to follow suit this week and use my PVC to create a pendulum sand swing. I dyed some sand blue, added blue glitter, then dumped it into the dry pool. I rigged a PVC structure to make a pendulum with a funnel at the bottom. The intention was to scoop the sand into the funnel, give it a swing, and then the sand would make circular designs caused the circular swinging motion (see Tom's pendulum paintings). It was going to be really cool! Well, the children came outside and saw my contraption. A lot of oohs and ahhhs, and then all at once asked (I'm not kidding...every single child), " do we put the marbles in? Where do the marbles go?" "Marbles?" I ask. "Oh. No, no, no, no...this is a pendulum. We will swing sand with it and make neat designs." I was gazed upon with disappointment. LOTS of disappointment. They did give the contraption a quick swirl. But then, "So we don't get to use the marbles?" And at that, my sparkly swinging sand was a complete bust. Needless to say, out went the pendulum  and in went the pipes, connectors and marbles!

We kept the sand and the funnels since this added extra interest - they could pour the sand through the connected tubes to see where it would come out! They were thrilled and played happily for the remaining portion of the hour.

The pendulum was moved to the "construction" area.

I removed the funnel and added a ziplock filled with sand. This became a "wrecking ball" for the block structures. 

The set of children who were playing in that area were quite amazed by the pendulum and it was a roaring success.

Ah, the joy of the "emergent" curriculum!

Today, I removed the sand and added over 30 feet of 3", 6" and 12" cut PVC with connectors. The added pipes allowed the children to build more complex structures.

This boy was extremely focused and creative with the PVC. He made a "4",

he made an "h"

and next it was a horse!

We sat together and concentrated his efforts further. He began to assemble the pipes vertically and soon it became this upright "goal post." Several children came to join the fun as we tossed bean bags through his goal post.

This boy was intent on putting marbles through the tubes. He would listen for the sound of the rolling marbles and would find the hole through which the marble would fall.


  1. I laughed my behind off when I read the part about every child asking where to put the marbles in! Sound like my group of children! Except they are certain that PVC pipes are actually pirate telescopes to be used on from the top of the climbing structure : )

  2. Haha...yes, I was a tad dumbfounded considering I initially bought the PVC for the purpose of making pendulums!!! We've had many scopes also...but usually periscopes in submarines. My only problem has been reminding the boys not to make weapons. The darn pipes can so easily be made into machine guns....argh!

  3. Well, goodness, my swords and water "shooters" sound so benign compared to the machine guns, LOL. We might have to turn ours into marble structurs, um, say, tomorrow? : )