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Nature as an Extension of the Classroom-An Outdoor Education

Beehive Blog Entry

May 13, 2020

Nature as an Extension of the Classroom-An Outdoor Education

Hello Beehive Families! I hope you all are staying sane and healthy. As the weather starts to get a little warmer, and the days a little longer, now is a great opportunity to spend some more of our time outdoors!

An “Outdoor Education” can occur in any outdoor setting from a school playground to an industrial area, remote wilderness, swamps, fields, forests, shore, lakes, and many other biomes. Outdoor education can take place on a walk to Audoban or City Park, to the Bayou, to visit a cemetery, or your community garden. 

The topic is the outdoors themselves, and cultural aspects related to the natural environment. You may teach mathematics, biology, geology, communication and language, history, political science, art, and motor skills-the essential is that these are taught outside. 

Here are some unconventional, Reggio-inspired ways that you and your families can explore the natural world, and implement some wonderful learning tools and techniques that will help your toddler grow!

Dramatic Play-Outdoor “Mud” Kitchen

Our Beehive students absolutely love making imaginary concoctions in our classroom kitchen, and studies show how crucial dramatic play is for brain and social development, especially at this age. 

Really, your quarantine mud kitchen can be extremely simple, and you don’t have to build anything to allow your children to feel like they have their own outdoor kitchen. All you need is some extra tupperware, pots or pans, spatulas, spoons, plates, etc. Just make sure that everything is washable-i.e. Choosing metal and plastic over wooden items. 

You can take any stray tree limbs, sticks, stones, or other found natural items as surfaces for your mud kitchen. You can also just take a few wooden boxes or baskets, and arrange them outside for your children’s kitchen!

DIY Labyrinth

This is an interesting way to introduce meditation to your toddlers! Labyrinths can be extremely intricate, or very simple, and really all that is needed is a little free time, some stones or rocks, and a design in mind!

Your children may not find that their labyrinth is their outdoor source of meditation at first, but become fascinated with the different patterns your maze will make, as they travel through. You can also do a smaller version of this for your children’s cars and trucks, balls, and other toys that “go”. This is a great way to give your DIY Labyrinth a provocation, and introduce the idea that just like your child’s truck traveling through it’s maze, you and your child can have fun running and walking through your own in your backyard!

Outdoor Ramps

To continue on our movement idea and the Beehive’s love of moving toys and ramps, you can create a more permanent ramp in your backyard!

Again, this can be extremely simple, and the only materials that you end up using are some sticks, tree limbs, or even some found objects such as cardboard boxes (to be taken inside so as not to get soggy from rain). You can also use extra items like a pool noodle, or tape together the cardboard center of some paper towel rolls, to let your cars race along their brand new race track.

 

Paint like Jackson Pollock

Again, all you need for this activity is a couple pieces of flattened cardboard, a paint brush, and washable paint! Show your child the fun of painting by moving their hands in so many different motions-where freedom to express themselves is key. Show them the difference of standing versus sitting, moving the paint brush close and then far away from the canvas/cardboard. Talk with them about how the paint changes from these differences in approach. 

Stacking and Balancing Rocks

This is a simple way to transform the Beehive’s love of creating towers, practicing their motor skills as they carefully balance each rock, and allowing them to crash down to the ground. 

You can also explain to your child that in nature and on hiking trails, these stacked rocks are called “cairns”. Cairns like this one are placed along certain parts of a trail to ensure whoever’s walking it, that they are on the right path. Their purpose is to guide, serving as beacons when the trail may be hard to find or potentially lost. 

Patterns Outside

All you need for this one is some leaves, flowers, stones, or other natural materials, you just need to ensure that you have a few items of the same-at least 3 in quantity for each material.

Patterns are something that Ms. Paris and I have started to introduce the Beehive students to, but they will really see more of this in provocations and invitations that will be put out on tables when they reach the Rabbit Burrow. While they might not know it, they’re creating the stepping stones for their later explorations in mathematics. 

Education within the outdoors is so incredible for children who are still learning so much about the world, and learning within nature can help with problem-solving skills, socio-emotional coping skills, as well as create a creative and inspiring backdrop for certain areas of learning that your child might not gravitate towards normally.

Like most learning, outdoor education can be a life-long endeavor, and by allowing your child to feel comfortable learning and exploring in the natural world, they will create a connection that will last them their entire lives, and provide endless opportunities for inspiration, innovation, and exploration. 

-Ms. Emily

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