Friday, 29 July 2016

Outdoor Learning

I am thrilled that The Kindergarten Program includes a section on Learning In The Outdoors where "learning in the outdoors is included as part of the instructional day, and the educators play an active role, engaging with children in an inquiry stance as they play, explore, and learn together outside the classroom." (The Kindergarten Program, pg. 34, 2016)

This past year, our teaching team made a commitment to include Outdoor Exploration to our instructional day. We dedicated time each week to play and learn outdoors. We took nature walks in the forest behind our school, used Sit Spots to build connections with nature, and created opportunities in our "backyard" to explore and create. You can visit Rose Marcelli of Educate.Invest.Inspire and Lucas Serper of Play.Create.Inquire for more information on our Outdoor Exploration

As part of my commitment to outdoor learning, I created a proposal for adding learning materials to enhance the space we have in our kindergarten pens. I also incorporated ways in which we could use those same materials beyond the fence. The proposal was well received and approved by our supportive Administration and School Council. 

Our outdoor order was placed with Louise Kool & Galt who "are the leading supplier of learning materials, furniture and equipment to the Canadian early childhood and elementary school markets (Louise Kool & Galt, 2016)." Having had the opportunity to visit their showroom last summer and tinker with their products, I knew that they were the right company to trust with our outdoor space. 

Photo Credit: Joanne Babalis

The products from Louise Kool & Galt enhanced the outdoor space that was previously designed with the help of Linda Naccarato of Art With Linda. Linda worked with our students to create a natural environment that included a painted mural, waterfall, stepping stones, and wooden house, as well as a bike path, and tire garden. She provided hands-on activities throughout the entire process, which engaged the students and further connected them to their environment. This included planning the environment using loose parts, painting the mural, planting flowers to attract various insects, exploring ramps and loose parts play, and engaging in dramatic play experiences. 

Photo Credit: Joanne Babalis

I look forward to continue using the outdoor space with our students, as well as taking our new materials beyond the fence, in the upcoming school year! (We will be doing this with the help of our newly purchased Mac Sport Wagons from Costco). I am excited to continue documenting students learning and having it available for them to observe from the outdoors and I am most excited to foster our students curiosity and sense of wonder and contribute to their mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health and well-being (The Kindergarten Program, 2016). 

The following are three of my favourite children's books and educator resources to inspire learning outside!

The Other Way To Listen by Byrd Baylor

If You Hold A Seed by Elly MacKay

The Listening Walk by Paul Showers

in the Primary Grades by Georgia Heard

by The Laboratory School at the 
Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study 

by Deb Curtis and Margie Carter

"It's a good thing to learn about nature in order to share this knowledge with children; it's even better if the adult and child learn about nature together. And it's a lot more fun."
Richard Louv

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