The Nature Explore Classroom at
Christ Lutheran Preschool
Our outdoor playground is a long narrow space, which initially presented some challenges.
The space did not offer much in the way of activities for the children. In addition, the structures in the space and their placement limited visibility throughout the entire playground, making it difficult for teachers to supervise the children appropriately, and we felt the need to restrict some of the activity outdoors for the safety of the children.
We knew that a change was needed. We wanted to provide more opportunities for learning activities as well as opportunities for our children to connect with nature, and planned our outdoor space accordingly, using the principles developed by Nature Explore program to design our classroom.
When our classroom was completed, we held an orientation session for staff and provided them with a quick guide to each of the areas in our Outdoor Classroom, which we refer to as “the OC”. The staff, in turn, held orientation sessions with the children in their classrooms. This helped us all to use the classroom more effectively and appropriately.
We felt no need to impose numerous rules upon the children, other than respecting one another and the items and growing things they found within the classroom. This allowed the children the freedom to explore and direct their own play and discovery. It also gave the teachers the opportunity to enjoy their time with the children outdoors and engage with them, rather than police them.
Wonderful things happened, and continue to happen! Behavior has improved, we have seen fewer incidents and injuries, and the children are happy and engaged in activities of their own choosing. This has led to many positive outcomes both indoors as well as outdoors.
A year after opening the OC, we are still enjoying the beauty and variety it offers, and are excited about adding even more options for the children to grow and learn outdoors. Staff are becoming more comfortable with our beautiful, messy and wondrous outdoor space and the opportunities for learning that it offers.