The outdoor classroom has allowed the children to learn about nature through play and free exploration. They have shown great interest in investigating things they find and have enjoyed time outside in all the seasons.
The children have projects they are investigating and experimenting with both indoors and out. They enjoy eating snacks and lunches outside as well. This year we finished the indoor, “outdoor classroom”! The room is almost completely glassed in on three walls and has become more of a normal transition from indoors to outdoors. The separation from indoor and outdoor seems to flow more into each other. It also allows them to more closely observe animals during the winter season. The gardens have been a huge success with children growing and eating fresh fruits and vegetables. They have found out that they do in fact like a lot of different vegetables that they were unwilling to try before. Favorites from the gardens include peppers and grapes. Strawberries are another fruit that are constantly picked bare. We had added blueberries, black raspberries, and blackberries in the years past. Many of these took several years to bear fruit. This past summer we had a small crop of each that the children got to taste and now they cannot wait for summer and berries again.
A donated stage was added for the children to act out plays, short skits, and play music on. The children have taken a special interest in the large motor play area this year. They have enjoyed soccer, basketball, baseball, and dodge ball. Favorites of the large motor play area are running around freely with scarves, rolling in the grass and running through a sprinkler in the summer. One of their favorite outdoor activities is making mud pies, so we made a mud kitchen in the play hut. Everything can be mixed with mud in a variety of baking pans, pie tins, skillets, and all the utensils to go with them.
The children enjoy making teepees and other structures out of tree limbs and cookies in the messy materials area with sheets, pulleys, ropes, and straps. They use these in the most creative ways from lifting buckets, to tree limbs, and sometimes even themselves.
The addition of outdoor pillows has been a huge success and the children have become very creative with them, moving them around the yard for extended creativity. From cloud gazing to laying down and watching critters in the grass, to relaxing on a lazy summer day, the pillows have proven to be very versatile They also like to arrange the outdoor pillows in the Gathering Area to listen to stories.
My goal for the coming year is to get the parents and community more involved in the outdoor classroom. We had some windows donated for the greenhouse, which still has some work before its finished. We are hoping it will be done by winter 2016. Since the kids love to watch the birds and squirrels so much we are planning a new and larger bird and animal haven to surround the “outdoor” room.