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Outdoor Learning III

Last month we delved into the benefits of outdoor play and nature-based learning and highlighted some videos that you could use in your classroom. This month, we continue the Outdoor Learning series by exploring considerations for outdoor play spaces and highlighting ideas for outdoor play. It's important to make sure that children with disabilities have access to and can participate in all manner of outdoor learning opportunities.

Considerations for Outdoor Plays Spaces

It's paramount to make efforts to create engaging outdoor play spaces for each and every child. Considerations for Creating Safe and Stimulating Outdoor Play Spaces outlines what good outdoor play spaces look like. The paper section highlights the importance of accommodating the differing needs, skills, and interests of young children, including those with suspected delays and identified disabilities. It also prompts the reader to consider what you want children to experience in the outdoor space which will help program leaders, staff and families better individualize their outdoor play spaces.  

We would be remiss not to mention that some programs are challenged with limited or lack of outdoor play space. When Availability of Outdoor Play Space Is an Issue highlights possible outdoor accommodations that may be reasonable or appropriate when the outdoor offerings are less than ideal. 

10 Tips to Enhance Your Outdoor Play Space consists of fun ideas to spruce up your outdoor play space!

*Shout out to Samantha Dolan of North Seattle College who was part of the team that initiated the nature-based learning portion of the ECLKC website!

Loose Parts

Loose parts are easily moved materials that are used in children's play. Literature suggests that loose parts contribute to a successful play environment for children with disabilities. Loose parts can be used in many ways; children can collect, put together, mix, separate, stack, fill and dump, and line up, among other things. The Loose Parts on the Playground webinar, presented by JC Boushh, imparts how to re-invigorate outdoor play spaces while sparking children’s creativity. In a few simple steps, teaching teams can redesign their outdoor play spaces to add a variety of materials that can be moved, carried, put together, and taken apart in multiple ways. Here is the accompanying PowerPoint.  

The Learning in Loose Parts showcases how nature's loose parts support more complex play. "When children are encouraged to use loose parts and try their own ideas, they are driven to learn. They are driven to not only ask their own questions, but also discover their own answers and create new possibilities."

Additional Outdoor Play Ideas

Primary Lessons for Classroom and Garden collates 16 garden lessons with pre-kindergarten students in mind. The lessons are simply written and easy to adapt. 

The article, Childhood in the Garden: A Place to Encounter Natural and Social Diversity, explores the important role of the garden in children's learning. 

Mud Play
While it may be messy, mud provides a wonderful play opportunity! How to Create Your Own Mud Kitchen delves into how to make a designated space for children's mud creations.

Relevant NAEYC Standards

This newsletter covered outdoor learning which has relevance to the following NAEYC standards:
  • Standard 3 (Teaching): The program uses developmentally, culturally, and linguistically appropriate and effective teaching approaches that enhance each child’s learning and development in the context of the curriculum goals. 
  • Standard 9 (Physical Environment): The program has a safe and healthful environment that provides appropriate and well-maintained indoor and outdoor physical environments. 

DEC Recommended Practices

The DEC Recommended practices includes a domain on the environment.

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