It is very evident that young students often feel confined and restricted within their classroom and enjoy being outside, whether this is in a large air-conditioned room in summer, or outside in winter. Very young students learn best through sensory and physical experiences. Most indoor activities are sedentary and fail to promote healthy, physical growth and opportunities for discovery in real-life situations. For many young students playing outdoors in their kindergarten setting may be the only opportunity they have to improve their well-being and play safely and freely.
It is essential to offer very young students daily access to a range of learning opportunities through well-planned activities outside the classroom. These should include areas where students can be messy, adventurous and noisy. The teacher should endeavour to offer opportunities for students to learn on a different scale and to have first-hand contact with weather, seasons and their impact on nature. They should be able to interact and collaborate with others, make music, invent and act out stories. They need to have daily activities to investigate, problem solve, explore, discover and cultivate plants. Facilities to be physically active and to relax and be calm should be always available.
Adults should lead learning rather than directing it in a supportive, enthusiastic way by encouraging choice, observing students and recording their learning processes. Teachers need to plan the areas available outside the classroom with great care. Drawing a plan to scale will help to plot the location of resources and equipment so noisy and vigorous activities do not encroach on quieter and creative ones.
Consider all areas of learning and plan activities with relevant resources. For example, in the literacy area provide books and simple props for students to act out their favourite stories. Provide large sheets of paper, thick pens, chalk and crayons for them to make marks. Create problems in the maths area with large three-dimensional objects whereby, for example, students have to use an agreed number of shapes to create various building for specific purposes. In science, provide sand and water with pipes and tubes to develop an understanding of basic physics (gravity). Provide ramps for vehicles of different weight and size so students can measure the distances covered and discuss the outcomes. Plant seeds and observe root development; provide some with water and some without so they question why and how. Allocate an area for music by using two instruments at a time for comparison of sounds each one makes and then students can learn how to create volume and tempo in different ways. Ensure that a safe track is created for wheeled equipment so students learn to steer and negotiate objects. Provide climbing and balancing equipment too to improve bodily awareness. Provide fabric of different sizes for dressing up, or making tents.
In addition, the school should take full advantage of local amenities, including parks, local shops, fitness centres and other facilities, so young students have first-hand experiences of the locality. Teachers need to visit first to see what is available and how this can be planned into their learning programme. They also need to do a thorough health and safety check before the visit.
- Include outdoor learning in your weekly programme of activities, with clear learning outcomes.
- Make sure that all essential equipment is readily available.
- Assign specific activities and subsequent responsibility to individual members of the team.
- Make sure that there is an adult present at all times in the outdoor area.
- Include visits within the local community where possible.
By: Gianna Ulyatt