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, November 22, 2011

Let's Go Outside!

There has been a misconception over the last century that learning must take place indoors. Years ago, students would diligently go to school and “learn.”

 But, they would also be able to roam free and explore their world once the school bell rang. 

They would run about, play tag, build forts, climb trees, explore streams, and use their creative ingenuity to transform natural objects into playthings.

Unfortunately, we have experienced a shift over the last few generations where parents work more hours (indoors); consequently, young students are forced to attend more formalized institutions to bide their time waiting for their parents return. 

With the best of intentions, many of these institutions have developed structured programs that offer every option from cooking and crafts to structured sports and pre-math for the preschool child. 

 Most of them will also offer a “recess” time, but this time would be limited so as not to “waste” time. With this shift, children seem to have lost their ability to play outside for hours on end as we once did. 

 According to Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, children have become disconnected with nature. In fact, Louv went as far as coining the term “nature deficit disorder” when it comes to the youth of today. 

As we know, this over abundance of time spent indoors has, in fact, caused a disconnect with nature. This lack of time spent outside has also contributed to a host of other problems such as obesity, ADHD, physical deficits, and lack of confidence in physical abilities

I need to ask, why did the idea of learning outside become a threat to our children's development? When did studying plants and nature in their natural habitat become underscored by watching a nature program on TV or You Tube? Why is the concept of "play" better understood indoors as it is outdoors?

 To counteract these deficits and misconceptions, many programs for young children have discovered the value of the Outdoor Classroom. These programs are adding natural elements, gardens, and green spaces. They have taken the components from inside their classroom and brought them outside. Forward-thinking teachers are bringing their students outside to learn in an environment that has been designed with the development of the child in mind. 

I send out a huge congratulations to those programs who have stepped up against this absurd anti-recess revolution that seems to spreading like wildfire across our nation. I congratulate teachers and parents who have taken learning outdoors to once again connect our youth with the world in which they live!

 The Outdoor Classroom is a great place to start, but we must all take steps to get our children back OUTSIDE!

Take a hike, visit a nature center, go on a walk, splash in a stream, fish in the lake, smell the flowers, make a leaf rubbing, build a snowman, go birdwatching, dig for worms, search for bugs, go on an outdoor alphabet scavenger hunt, have a family picnic in your backyard, sit under the stars, visit a farm, go berry picking, or simply find the green area in your local park. Nothing is too small.

Let's ALL get outside and get LEARNING!

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