OUTDOOR CLASSROOM LEARNING CENTERS—THE SKY’S THE LIMIT!

Open the door and turn your learning environment inside out.  Maximize outdoor play by moving learning centers outdoors, opening up new possibilities for stimulating children’s creativity, self-discovery, and imagination.  Children can do virtually anything outside that they can do inside—the sky’s the limit!  By providing outdoor learning centers, teachers can change materials and props depending on the interests and ideas that emerge from the children. Whether you have green space or not, here are some ideas of what centers you might include in your outdoor learning environment.

Science & Nature Center

Science comes alive as children explore nature and make first-hand observations.  Provide containers which children can use to collect their findings (i.e., leaves, sticks, rocks, mud) and a table where they can explore the items with all their senses.  (Provide tools for investigations: magnifying glasses, binoculars, bug jars, tweezers, rulers).

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Sand & Water Center

Not every outdoor environment can have a sandbox but they can easily accommodate a sand and water table. This learning center is the best place for messy play as it is suitable for many sensory experiences.  Sand and water equal math and science learning! They alone or together provide opportunities for endless experimenting.

Dramatic Play Center

Set the stage to inspire children’s imagination through dramatic play outside.  Dramatic play allows children to make sense of the adult world in a child-friendly setting.  It also develops necessary skills in cooperation, language, role-plays, and leadership. Put an outdoor kitchen near the sand area and discover “what’s cooking.”  All that “good food” needs to be eaten. An outdoor picnic table just their size makes for family-style dining.

Art Center

Children who may not participate in art experiences indoors may join in willingly when art is presented in the familiar and comfortable territory of the outdoors. An easel (free standing or hanging easel) is a must to include.  If no easel, a wall, chain-link or wood fence and butcher paper provides many opportunities for children to work on vertical surfaces.

Block/Construction Center

Take block play to new heights by moving them outside.  Many engineering feats are possible with block play. The block construction area encourages language, social engagement, cooperation, problem-solving, creativity, imagination, and self-esteem. It can be taxing transporting those wooden indoor blocks outdoors. Foam blocks designed to look just like real cinder blocks, bricks, planks, and concrete pavers are lightweight.  Plan for them to have their own “home” outside, thus being available and accessible to the children. Children enjoy having accessories to use with block play.  Small cars, trucks, animals, people extend children’s ideas.

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I’m not finished yet! Having been an Outdoor Teacher for 12 years, I’m looking forward to sharing a few more learning centers and many activities that you can include in your outdoor classroom. The sky’s the limit!

Recommended Products:

  • OUTSCI (Outdoor Learning Kit Science)
  • SENMIX (Outdoor Sensory Mixing Table)
  • OBSERVE (Nature Observation Set – 24 Pieces)
  • TOOLCHST (Science Exploration Kit – 72 Pieces)
  • XCSG60120 (Sandbox with Cover—5’ x 10’ x 10”)
  • SCLEAR (Sand and Water Activity Table)
  • MPC3006 (MyPerfectClassroom Double Sand and Water Table)
  • PLAYSAND (Sandtastik White Play Sand 25 lbs.)
  • OUTKIT (Outdoor Kitchen Set)
  • PICTAB (Outdoor Picnic Table)
  • MOBEASEL (Colorations Premium Mobile Storage Easel)
  • HDE (Hanging Easel)
  • 4018 (Butcher Roll—White, 18” Wide, 40 LB.)
  • ALLBUILD (Excellerations Jumbo Foam Construction Set)
  • OUTBLOCK (Outdoor Learning Kit Blocks)
  • PEEPSET (Excellerations Photo Block Play People)

 

To order any of the products listed above or to view our wide array of products, please visit our website at discountschoolsupply.com or contact our customer service department at 800-627-2829.

 

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Unplug… And Reconnect with Nature

It’s hard to believe that this week is designated as “Take a Child Outside Week.” The fact that we even need to have an initiative to motivate parents to go outside with their children and connect with nature is beyond comprehension for me!

During my childhood years, there was no better place to be than outside. In fact, our parents didn’t even offer us any other options; they just wanted to know that we were in the “neighborhood.” This could mean the woods near our house, down the street playing in someone’s backyard or at the school playground around the corner. We were always outside even as our parents stayed inside. Our parents didn’t have to “take us outside.” Our parents didn’t buy nor need to steer us away from the HDTV, video games, computers, phones and other technological gadgets that bombard the environment of children today. It seems a bit ironic that it’s the parent’s responsibility to get their children outside when it is they, the parents, who buy all the newest technology and allow (or even encourage) their children to learn how to use it. In Richard Louv’s book, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder,” he quotes a fourth-grader as saying, “I like to play indoors better ‘cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are.”

I saw an ad in the paper last week that had the following message, “There is no childhood obesity epidemic. (We just need better role models.)” We need parents to recognize that they are their children’s first teachers and that they are their children’s role models. One in three kids are overweight or obese and electronic media and junk food are partly to blame. And who is buying these pricey video games and high fat and sugar foods? It’s usually not the 4- to 8-year-old child. I feel as responsible adults we need not to be spending money on these items for our young children. Turn off the TV (I think there’s a designated week for that too!), and consider playing a video game or watching a movie a “treat” and not something to be consumed 5-6 hours daily!

What if we open the door and give children the time and opportunities to explore and discover nature on their own? Finding worms and dirt and leaves and sticks and rocks and bugs and whatever the outdoor space has to offer, the natural world is rich in sensory experiences for children. Smell the flowers, listen to the birds, feel the wind on your face, roll in the grass, stomp in the puddles or watch the shapes of clouds in the sky. Even in urban environments, children can experience nature. Provide magnifying glasses, tweezers , and small shovels for children to explore a small patch of dirt or grass. Even weeds grow in sidewalk cracks, ants can be found there too. Place a thermometer outside and read the temperature. Watch shadows, use binoculars for bird or squirrel watching. You don’t have to be a naturalist to instill in children an awe of the world and a desire to discover and uncover what is around them. You can nurture children’s interest in nature simply by demonstrating your own excitement and curiosity. Let’s go outside! You are a role model!