Monday, February 21, 2011

Outdoor Learning

Did you know that in Norway and New Zealand they have Preschool programs that takes place almost entirely outside. The children get dropped off outside 2, 3,even 5 days a week. They are exposed to the elements, they walk on wet rocks, they run and jump in the snow. They help make the fire in the fire pit, they widdle their own stick for roasting marshmallows with, can you imagine, here in the USA giving a 5 year old at a preschool program a sharp knife to widdle with. Insurance would be through the roof. I can't even get my Child Care Licensing Coordinator to license me with a few stumps in my yard. They may get a splinter, fall into one, or who knows what else. Is it because we are a sue happy nation?? That families in other countries don't take their children's accidents as opportunities to sue. I don't know the answer... I just know that I long to create an environment that allows the children in my care to be kids. To fall sometimes, to coexist with nature, in all her glory. Splinters and all.

If you go to Let the Children Play, Ms Jenny has some amazing posts on creating the most amazing outdoor environments for children to play in. I couldn't pick just one post, since she has so many... so hop over and just browse her site, if you aren't inspired than there is something wrong with you. Also, Earthplay has a slide show of the outdoor preschool, Open Spaces, in New Zealand. I went to You Tube and found a movie about the one in Norway. For some reason I can't link up to that one.

We have been trying to get outside right after breakfast. The kids are loving eating snack outside, and can't wait until we can eat a picnic lunch again. I know the cold weather will be back soon, but I don't want to let that keep us inside again.

I put out a sensory table full of bird seed... I also found the blog, Sand and Water Tables, where Tom (the teacher) makes the sensory table a vital part of his preschool program. It is amazing. He wrote that children love to transport things, almost anything. I know this. I watch as they transport all the kitchen things to the block area, and ALL the blocks to the kitchen area. I help them move all the pine needles we rake from one part of the yard to another (for no apparent reason). So, I know the need for toddlers & preschoolers to transport, I just didn't connect it to the sand table.

Where else can they experiment with this, than in the sensory table. The different material, the different weights, the different transport vehicles, the possibilities for learning are endless. We all use sensory tables I'm sure, but do we open them up to the possibilities of greatness that Tom does at Sand and Water Tables. He says, as a side bar, many times... "There will be spills." How many of us have said, "keep it in the table" before? I know I have, many times. I don't think I would have ever, ever thought to put ANOTHER bucket next to the table and let the kids transport the material to it (spills and all).

They had a ball, and I didn't even set up a chute to run the seed through, or a ramp to slide anything down. They loved putting their feet into the seeds (something they couldn't have done if they hadn't transported it to the lower tub from the higher one).

I brought the paint outside again today. This time I set up the easels, without any paper. They kids were stunned. They kept looking and waiting, I guess for me to put out the paper. I just kept busy with Little Man. Finally, Princess (my adventurer, my authority questioner) took the paintbrush, dipped it into the paint, and made a small mark on the easel. She quick looked over at me, shrugged her shoulders (with the cutest smile, like she got away with something) and yelled for her friends to come and try this new medium.

After painting, they got to use the spray bottle, clean what they made and do it again. The spray bottle was a lot of fun on it's own, of course.
After snack and Little Man's morning mini-nap, we went to the neighborhood park. Which always lends itself to explorations and investigations.

There are tree's to climb....

And slides to conquer!!

I didn't get a photo of the kids running & rolling down the little hill, or making Happy Birthday Cake with the onion grass and clover. I didn't get the photo of the beautiful plastic & metal play equipment that was used for a short while then abandoned for the trees, grass, and mulch. Kids seem to naturally find what's natural for them.

1 comment:

  1. thanks for the reminder. i want to get us out for more of the preschool day!