Images of children running through the grass or playing on the playground come to mind when teachers first hear the phrase “learning outdoors”. Although not entirely incorrect, as most physical activity within an early childhood program does stem from the outdoor environment, it is not exactly true when thinking of the outdoor classroom. An outdoor classroom is a separate space within the outdoor area where children are encouraged to interact with the natural world around them. This interaction can take the form of either play-based activities (such as pretending to be a farmer tending to the classroom garden) to multi-sensory activities (such as examining insects through a magnifying glass and picking up leaves with a pair of tweezers).
The outdoor world is a fascinating place for many young children, and as a result they tend to show a natural curiosity towards it. By recognizing this curiosity, early childhood educators can take full advantage of the different experiences children can have with nature. By doing this, teachers can help to promote learning both inside and outside of the classroom. According to the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education (NRC 2018), outdoor play is essential for young children. Teachers can use the outdoor learning environment as an extension of their classroom. Research shows outdoor learning experiences positively impact not only children’s physical development, but also their academic performance, peer interaction, and emotional well-being (Merewether 2015; Yildirim & Akamca 2017). Given these benefits, outdoor learning should be a priority for early childcare programs (Yildirim & Akamca 2017).
H&H Child Care Training offers different courses to help teachers incorporate the outdoor classroom within their daily lesson planning. From our CDA course on Creating the Outdoor Classroom to our free training, Creating the Natural Outdoor Classroom teachers can start their journey on opening their classroom doors to the exciting new learning experiences the outdoor classroom can bring!