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!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Outdoor Classroom Concept

There has been a lot of chatter lately regarding the Outdoor Classroom concept. This site will focus primarily on how the concept is being applied within the realm of early childhood, but it can be beneficial to elementary grades and beyond. The concept certainly isn't simply seems forgotten and underused. 

The Outdoor Classroom (aka "the play yard") is a learning environment where teachers provide a selection of thoughtfully planned activities filled with social and cross-curricular learning opportunities. The yard is designed to support positive development of the whole child and allows for pockets of creative, cognitive, quiet, and active play. Included in the Outdoor Classroom would be experiences in dramatic play, sand, water play, sensory activities, nature art, music & movement, blocks & construction, gardening, caring for animals, and art (basically, everything you would find inside the doors of a typical preschool classroom!). 

According to the American Heart Association, children need 60+ minutes of physical activity per day. They need to develop motor skills such as running, climbing, dancing, hopping, jumping, swinging, and balance to gain the coordination needed for strong motor functions and self esteem. Safety is also a factor as children who are physically competent are less likely to get hurt when taking physical risks. However, in addition to physical activity, The Outdoor Classroom is a very unique opportunity to serve both active and quiet children alike. While outside, children can use their whole bodies to learn in a way that isn't possible in a confined indoor environment. Children can be louder, more physically active, messier (we all know that one is popular!), and they have increased feelings of independence. Children also benefit from being in nature and experiencing the natural beauty of the outdoors. This is particularly true for children who are depressed, angry, ADHD, or ADD as studies show that nature has a very calming and therapeutic effect on children (Louv, 2008). Try to think back to your favorite memories. Most often, positive memories will take place outside. In a world where children spend hours indoors and in front of screens, it is more crucial than ever to restore the joy and sense of wonder that comes from being outside.  Please enjoy browsing my website. I am the Outdoor Curriculum Coordinator at a preschool in Southern California and I have a passion for sharing and exchanging information with other educators. I hope you will find the photos and blogs informational and inspirational. Throughout the site you will find tips and ideas for yard design, activities, photos and practices from my own Outdoor Classroom, recipes, related research, and real-life experiences (both good and bad!). At times I will post an abundance of photos, representing an entire thematic unit. At other times I will post a single activity that was either really fun, strengthened a particular skill, or promoted creativity and problem solving. As much as possible, I have tried to include links to other great websites and blogs from fellow educators who have the same passion, creativity and inspiration to make the education of young children a priority. In my blog I have included thoughts, grumbles, and victories on various subjects. Please feel free to send your comments, ideas and questions...this site is for you! Welcome to the Exploring the Outdoor Classroom!

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