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!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

PVC = Science and Art!

When I was asked to take over the "patio" responsibility at our school, I had to think for a long time about what angle I was going to take with the activities. The patio is designed for the 3 - 5 year olds and is our version of "indoor/outdoor" flow for an hour during their free choice time. Though I work with the teachers on specific activities to strengthen particular skills, the rest is for me to "take it and run."

I envisioned a beautiful art area filled with ample resources such as recyclables, jars of paint, and oodles of colored paper. I thought about it, but then it occurred to me that our "Project Room" serves that exact purpose (click here to visit the I Work 4 Kids blog, written by our Project Room teacher).
Well, I could do dramatic play, puzzles, and fine motor. Nope...that is already IN the classroom! It finally struck me that large science, gross motor, messy art, water play, nature-oriented and sensory activities were just what we needed for the children who would be "naturally inclined" to choose the outdoor space for their free time activities.

This week, one of the focus activities was PVC tubes and balls. I had the children explore various sizes of PVC tubes with varying sizes of balls (golf, whiffle, and marbles). Of course, my idea was to roll the balls into the pool, but that lasted for about...oh...30 seconds!

Soon, ramps, tubes and slides were being built across the patio and balls were running wild. The tubes were hooked onto the patio fence, window sills and the 5 gallon paint bucket that I was using to store the PVC. However, the kids were focused and intention and they were creating unique and effective ramps designed to jump balls into cups, race marbles with friends, and test out force and velocity. Did I worry that my intended method wasn't in use? NOPE! The children had taken their learning much further than my idea would have allowed. And that should be a teacher's allow children to create their own thoughts, processes, and understandings.

Today, I removed several pieces of the pipe and left only a few select balls. I lined the pool with paper, squirted in ample amounts of paint, and let them discover how the paint reacted to the different balls.

One boy realized that the lighter balls would get stuck in the paint, while the heavier ones would roll through to make the longest tracks.

I didn't put too many limits on how to use the pipes or shovels (which were technically added for the purpose of scooping up balls in case the children didn't want to get their hands!). The shovels became "hockey" sticks for the balls and were also used to shmear the paint. One little girl even picked up a clean sheet of paper and laid it across her favorite "ball painting" to make a mirror image.

Tomorrow, we will use 3/4" PVC with marbles and paint!

The other activities I set out were: a "construction zone" with gutters, blocks, and lego vehicles;


tree blocks with forest animals;

painting and printing on leaves from our playground;

and a sensory bin filled with beans, magnet wands and small magnetic items (click the links to see detailed posts on these activities).

If you don't have a patio, then I would highly recommend bringing any of these activities into the yard. Remember...anything you can do inside, can be done BIGGER AND BETTER outside!!!

1 comment:

  1. This is fantastic post.....that's great work to giving knowledge!!!!
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