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, March 14, 2012

The Environment as a Teacher: Gutters & Water

We recently added some new loose parts to the Outdoor Classroom: GUTTERS! I set up the gutters on the yard as shown, but we gave no specific instruction on how to use them. 

Our Pre-K students noticed the gutters right away and began pouring the water down the gutters and into a bucket. 

As the water spilled over and flowed into the hole, the students realized they could make a river. With enthusiasm, they grabbed small shovels from the crates and requested our "real" tool shovel so they could make trenches and rivers in the sandbox. 

They worked cooperatively for approximately 30 minutes with barely a word from the teachers. As the children dug their trenches, connecting several holes that had been built by multiple children, and as they watched water flow through the sandbox, I took a moment to reflect on the capability of children to create knowledge from their environment. In the 30 minutes they spent on this project, they learned about force, flow of water, angles, absorption, and so much more. Could we possibly have taught them all of that in circle time? I think not.

The well designed environment IS a remarkable teacher in and of itself. Don't you think?


  1. Nice, Kristin. Yes, when there is a good setup, everything flows literately and metaphorically.

  2. Brilliant Kristin, sometimes think we totally underestimate the capabilities of the youngest children. I am so envious of your big sand pit. I'm sharing this post on my facebook page. Kierna