Not all outdoor spaces are perfect, but they’re best when they’re extend the learning environment. Watch the video, Making the Most Out of Outdoor Spaces, from a program that has turned its outdoor space into an inviting learning environment. Answer these questions about what you see.
- What are the strengths of the outdoor space? Think about safety, design, space, and accessibility.There are a wide variety of environments for children to explore. Activities that traditionally occur indoors (like homework and sewing) take place outdoors, as well. The space has been designed with safety in mind: there are clear paths and boundaries between areas, structures and materials are checked continuously. There are also materials that allow children to be creative and explore their world: hay bales, insects, chimes, water spaces, and plants. Children can meet their needs in the space. There are spaces for relaxation and privacy, spaces for art, spaces for reading, spaces for constructing, and spaces for active play.
- What concerns do you have about the outdoor space? What challenges do you think the program faced when creating the outdoor learning space? Again, think about safety, design, space, and accessibility.Maintaining the safety of the environment is something the staff must constantly be attentive to. They bring in natural materials that must be checked and monitored for safety risks. They must also consider the logistics of bringing some materials (like sewing machines and other electric devices) outdoors safely and conveniently. There might be children or youth enrolled in the program who are not used to spending so much time outdoors; they might prefer indoor activities like video games and might need support and encouragement to engage in active play.
- What features of this environment would work in your program? What from this program would you like to help recreate for your school-age outdoor environment? Are there other elements from the lesson you would like to incorporate in your outdoor setting?
- What support would you need to help accomplish these goals? What materials or equipment would help support your ideas?