Saturday, February 6, 2010

the preschool outdoor classroom

Regular readers will know that I'm a big believer in giving outdoor play as much of a look in as we give indoor play.  So when I came across the LA based  Outdoor Classroom Program I knew I was onto a winner.

The Outdoor Classroom Program wants to increase the quantity and quality of outdoor experiences for young children by educating teachers, administrators, and parents from on the value of outdoor environments and activities.

Would you like to find out more?  This short video has some valuable tips for the outdoor classroom. 
And on a really positive note, the video predicts that with programs such as these supporting early childhood centres indoor outdoor flow will become a rule of thumb within ten years and our kids will have great outdoor spaces to spend great chunks of time playing and learning in. Lets hope so!


  1. Before heading over the check out your links, I want you to know that our outdoor space re-design is underway and my proposal to shift our school to about 50 percent outdoors will likely be approved by our parent community, thanks in part to your inspiration! If the experiment works -- and I have no reason to believe it won't -- I'm hoping to gradually make our way to the kind of indoor-outdoor flow you write about.

    What makes our experiment interesting is that we are essentially located in an area where it rains for a good chunk of the school year.

    It's very clear to me that the only way for this to work is to have complete buy-in from the teachers, which in our case is every parent of every child in the school! Challenging, but how incredibly powerful if we can pull it off!

  2. Hi!

    We call this a "free low" system in the UK where children are free to choose between indoors and outdoors. Tom - I'm going to answer your point about rain on your blog - living in Scotland I understand where you are coming from here.

    In my experience, the buy-in from staff happens very quickly. The biggest issue is usually (in the cooler Scottish weather) the draught indoors if there isn't a good door that can be closed safely. The other issue is around supervision. There are options around both of these. Staff like the calmer environment of less children in either the indoor or outdoor space.

  3. Hi Tom and Juliet. We too have never had any problems with staff coming on board. Our Uni courses in Australia actually teach that this is the way to go in a preschool environment, but when you get out into the big wide world you realise that there are still many teachers who for a complex variety of reasons stand firm with a very structured day.

    Some of our parents do worry, especially when comparing us with their local preschool down the road or the preschool their friend's kids go to. Their main concern is that they won't learn if they choose to play outside all day. We explain the theory and research behind it, give constant feedback on what their child is learning, publish articles in the newsletter, photo displays etc to reassure parents and arm them with the knowledge they need to be confident in their decision to send their child to an indoor/outdoor flow preschool.

    Supervision isn't an issue for us as we are purpose built with a bank of windows all around each playroom that brings the outside in and the inside out. We also have an extra staff member than required by regulations because individual attention goes hand in hand with a progressive philosophy.

    I agree with Juliet - it is a lot calmer this way as well.

    As for the weather: we let the kids out in the rain if they have a raincoat (and we have extras). It becomes a part of the preschool routine to learn how to independantly change wet / muddy / dirty clothing and bag them up. This takes a couple of terms to get going, but the benefits are great.

    There are times during the hottest part of summer where we don't let kids on the grass area during the hottest part of the day for obvious reasons, but they can still choose between verandah and indoors.

    There are also times when it is very cold / windy / stormy where we do the same. It is a judgement call on the day which works well with a flexible daily program.

    The judgement is always made for safety / health / comfort of child reasons and not for fear of them getting too dirty or too wet. If you come to our preschool, you are going to get wet and dirty and muddy. Thats just the way it is :)

    Tom, I am collecting documentation to share with our new parents on the benefits of and indoor / outdoor program - the theory and research behind it and how we put it into practice. I could email it onto you when I'm done if that helps.

  4. Jenny, I would love to receive the benefits of your research! Thanks!

  5. Hi Jenny... I'm about to start working in a centre where indoor / outdoor programming is unheard of. Keen to introduce the concept but really aware of the fact that I will need to provide some research, I'd love to read what you put together (theory and research) if you've still got it.

  6. Hi Jenny... I'm about to start working at a centre where indoor / outdoor programming is unheard of. I'm wanting to introduce the concept but suspect I'll need to provide other educators with research and theory to support my inclination towards this kind of programming. I'd love a copy of your documentation, if you still have it!