Outdoor classrooms are something I have been hearing a lot about for the last couple of years. But before moving to California I lived in Maryland in a townhouse and my yard was a nightmare. I had grand plans but, I kinda get distracted easily. So I ended up doing everything but the backyard. I now live on a military base and was unsure about how to go about developing an outdoor classroom in a yard that was not technically mines. Turns out there are tons of things you can do!
I got my idea for the outdoor classroom from the NAEYC Conferences I have attended. I got the nerve up to actually do the project due to The Outdoor Classroom Project. I got the money to start the classroom from The Terri Lynne Lokoff Child Care Foundation. But the ideas for the areas I would need in the outdoor classroom I got from the Mother Goose Time Curriculum. I wanted to still be able to run centers outdoors and since I divide up the activities for the children to do as centers in the morning I needed a space for art, math, and writing. Most of the activities in the lesson planning book are hands on for the most part, so having a clear area in the outdoor space for hands on math activities and games was extremely important to me.
There were several different activities within the Mother Goose Time lesson planning books from this month that let me know that an outdoor classroom was a good idea.
1. Compost in the Kitchen STEAM station. -With this project I do not have enough room in my house for something this smelly. So I decided to make a Worm viewer for the children. This meant I needed to be outside for this project and we needed a place to put the Worm viewer when we were outside. I also wanted them to be able to take the worms out and look at them from time to time. So the Exploration area of our outdoor area would also be the mud kitchen. Because it's already covered in dirt!
2. Seed Projects- We have gotten tons of seeds for use in various art projects. I wanted to use the seeds in our own garden (Pictured above). So I was able to save the left over seeds and we will be planting them during out free time outside. This will show them that not only can we use the seeds for art purposes but beautiful things come them and can be eaten sometimes!
3. Crow's Nest STEAM Station- With this STEAM station the children are basically making bird nests. This is not a station you want set up inside. Children have the ability to find many many different kinds of nature materials and some can be small or they could be alive. And if you are anything like me, you want to keep live things outdoors!
Benefits: The benefits of an outdoor classroom are numerous. But the main one is that learning outside lets children know that they do not have to be in a classroom to learn new things. They are able to go outside and figure out how the world works as they play. I encourage everyone to hold their entire class day outside and see how engaged the children are and how much they enjoy being outdoors.
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Live Long and Keep Teaching,