Outdoor Classroom Inspiration

Last summer the outdoor space went through major changes; from a park like space to a true outdoor classroom. The old monster climbing structure and much of the accompanying rubber tan bark, better suited to school age children, was removed and preschool friendly components were added; grassy area, brick bike path, dramatic play area, low level climbing spot and a GIANT mud kitchen. The result is a space where children are engaged daily- challenging their minds and bodies during play.

The outdoor classroom is Nature Explore certified and promotes creative thinking abilities, STEM education, and a Reggio inspired feel, involving our local community during construction. We have many movable parts, including the black tube, donated by a local construction company. The children love that they can roll it around as well as build walls, out of brick (donated by a landscape parent), that will stop it from moving when they want a place to hang out. We use authentic materials, encouraging a small sense of risk; promoting a child’s understanding that we trust them with real materials.

Outdoor Classrooms with movable parts do not have to break the bank for design options. We asked a local electrical company for the spool, re-purposed an old ladder as a climbing option and attached a scaffolding plank, donated by a painting company, for a small low level climber. We also have an additional scaffolding plank that the children can move around; currently it sits on top of two donated motorcycle tires and is used as a balance beam.

The old dresser mirror was found at a local thrift shop, and has been securely attached to the fence in the dramatic play space. The dramatic play stage was built out of pallets, by a handy parent, and is awaiting some planter boxes along the sides. We plan to grow trellis beans this spring to further enclose the space, reminiscent of a secret garden.

Encouraging a love of gardening is easy when we include the children in the decision making process. They wanted to plant things that smelled good, and were purple. We included Lavender, Sage, Rosemary and Brussels Sprouts in our winter garden, and have been documenting growth each day; patiently waiting for harvest. The children are encouraged to use the herbs in their play, cutting sprigs that become part of a Playdoh forest, mud cake, or even a beautiful bouquet to share.

Thinking of the space as an additional learning environment, rather than a place for recess, has given the students a rich academic component that touches their very souls. Meeting children where they are in the learning process and encouraging them to try new things sets them on a path of success and understanding before they attend traditional school age classrooms.

Always-

Ms. Tina

All About Me:

Hello All! I am a preschool director/teacher by day and a mom of four always!

I am finishing my Masters Degree, specializing in Early Education Curriculum Design. I am a life long learner and early education advocate offering young children developmentally appropriate programs where inquiry and play are encouraged and celebrated.

I am part of the Mentor Teacher Project; designing my classroom to encourage and support new teachers daily!

*NAEYC member

*NAREA member

*Outdoor Classroom Specialist

*Designed a Nature Explore Certified Classroom

*Designed and certified a butterfly garden at our site

You can find me on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook with daily inspiration and curriculum ideas.

Always-

Ms. Tina

Curriculum Ideas

The following list is meant to be a jumping off point for meaningful discussions regarding what children want to know about. Ask the children what they know about ______ and record their knowledge on a large sheet of butcher paper. Each day add to their lists in order to scaffold knowledge. Vocabulary rich environments not only strengthen academic understanding, but they also cover NAEYC and ECERS standards that require labeled environments.

Inquiry Questions

This was the result of a month long inquiry about worms. We learned about their favorite environments, then looked for them each day in the outdoor classroom. We drew labeled pictures of them in the art center and observed them in their natural habitat. We finished up our provocation by building a worm tower for our garden. Covering math, science, engineering, nature, planning, and art domains.

New Year- New Ideas

‘Planning’ curriculum for a play-based, inquiry driven classroom can be tricky to navigate. Incorporating all of the necessary components of a standards based classroom while allowing the children to drive the curriculum and follow their lead can be showcased through photo documentation and included on my blog.

Giving the children the tools to gain knowledge while they plan, investigate and record their own learning is what we are all about! We can see what they are doing- but not what they are learning; making learning visible for parents and administrators is my main goal.

Thank you for following my journey to enhance young children’s academic experiences through play!

Always-

Ms.Tina

Hello PreK World!

My journey began over 20 years ago in a small academically driven classroom where discipline was a daily occurrence. I was young, naive, and textbook educated.

I returned to higher education when I realized that there were better ways to encourage young children’s academic achievement than drills, seat work and memorization.

I have since realized that DAP is enhanced when the children are engaged with their environment, learning from their experiences; ultimately cutting down on disruptive behaviors- allowing me to opt for redirection as a means of behavior management, enhancing the FUN aspect of my program.

My journey as a life long learner has set me on a path of creating curriculum plans for the busy teacher, advocating for young children to learn in ways that are relevant to their interests and developing a professional growth plan for early education teachers.

Thank you for following along my journey- checking back often for detailed curriculum plans- professional growth certificate opportunities and real life educational experiences for young learners.

Always-

Ms.Tina