The Outdoor Classroom
In concert with modern child development research findings, the concept of the Outdoor Classroom is built upon the premise that children are complex beings. To nurture the whole child, early childhood education needs to follow the fundamental principle that children are learning everywhere and all the time. Instead of developmentally inappropriate early academics, children need a broad variety of learning experiences and opportunities to grow in areas such as gross and fine motor development, social-emotional development, language development, and creative expression. Mastery of the skills associated with these areas is critical for healthy development as well as later academic success, and requires an educational format that is very different from a traditional elementary classroom. The Outdoor Classroom evolves from the real needs of children, offers activities that are personally meaningful to them, and fully embraces developmentally appropriate practices in early care.
Characteristics of the Outdoor Classroom
- Most activities that can be done indoors can be done outdoors. Some activities occur best outdoors; some can only occur outdoors.
- Children spend substantial periods of time outside, and it is easy and safe for them to get there; they are free to move easily between the indoors and outdoors.
- There is a full range of activities for children to participate in, including many activities that are traditionally thought of as “indoor activities.”
- The outdoor space offers a balance of areas for physically active and less active play.
- While outside, children frequently have the opportunity to initiate their own learning experiences and activities, with teachers available to support them.
- The outdoor curriculum evolves from and changes with children’s changing needs and interests.
- Children experience nature in as many ways as possible.
Benefits of the Outdoor Classroom
- An increase in physical development, capability, and activity
- Setting up patterns for an active, healthy lifestyle
- Fewer children suffering from diseases such as obesity, Diabetes, and ADD/ADHD
- Stronger language, problem-solving, and communication skills through projects and group activity
- Developing an interest in science and math through connecting with nature
- Fostering learning through self-initiation, control, and personal responsibility
- Higher, more positive self-esteem
- Effective relationship building in a cooperative, non-competitive environment
- Building a healthy and balanced internal psychology from time spent alone
- Manifesting classroom harmony
- Social-emotional mastery
- Familiarity with and appreciation of nature
- Wide, expansive view of how the world works
- Building stewardship skills for the environment