The Outdoor Classroom Project
Across America today, children’s health, development, learning, and well-being have been seriously compromised by decades of changes that have dramatically altered childhood. Key among these changes has been a significantly reduced amount of time spent outdoors, which is linked to a number of other detrimental trends. The Outdoor Classroom Project (OCP), an initiative of the Child Educational Center (CEC), Caltech/JPL Community, in La Cañada, California, is founded on the belief that early care and education programs have the power to address these challenges by providing rich and engaging outdoor learning experiences.
What Benefits Children
Experience in the field and child development research alike are showing that all children need and benefit from more time outdoors; it is critical for their health, self-concept, and future school success. The optimal learning and growing environment for young children is composed of a full integration of indoor and outdoor spaces. The Outdoor Classroom enhances and adds to the limited scope of activities available inside confined classrooms by providing for hands-on experiences, physical activity, social-emotional growth through peer interaction, and multifaceted approaches to cognitive development that connect children to nature and maximize their learning outcomes.
The Outdoor Classroom – A Universal Approach
The Outdoor Classroom can be created and used with almost every curriculum, for any population of children, and at virtually any program of early care and education. The Outdoor Classroom Project’s goal is to educate teachers, administrators, and parents about the value of outdoor play for children’s development, and help child care centers cultivate stimulating outdoor environments and activities at their sites. Together, we can transform the quality of learning experiences for children ages birth to five, and set the stage for healthy habits in early childhood programs everywhere.