by Theresa Embry
During recent visits to local child care centers participating in the Outdoor Classroom Project, I’ve been hearing a lot of enthusiasm from directors and teachers: “We don’t need convincing that the children need more outdoor time! All our staff is onboard with the changes we’ve been making! We love being outside more.”
Early childhood centers throughout Santa Barbara County have been making simple yet big changes by creating learning environments throughout their yards. Teaching staff and directors are getting creative, looking at their yard space with new eyes.
Unused corners are turning into gardens, mud pits, or reading nooks. Simple pathways with edible, safe vegetation are looping through spaces that lead to adjacent activity areas. These are just a few examples of simple changes that centers can make without too much effort or cost.
Teachers are bringing traditional indoor learning activities outdoors. As children spend more time outside, they seem happier and become healthier. Parents are happy knowing their children are reaping the health benefits of more time outdoors in high quality environments.
For those who DO need convincing, the best way to see an Outdoor Classroom in action is to visit an Outdoor Classroom Project Demonstration Site. The Demonstration Site Network is designed to be a supportive network for ECE providers, as well as a resource for parents seeking high quality programs with exemplary outdoor environments. If you are a teacher looking for new ideas or a parent looking for a high quality care (for children ages 0-5 yrs.) that emphasizes learning and playing outdoors, visiting an Outdoor Classroom Demonstration Site might be all the convincing you need.
Theresa Embry is a Coordinator for the Orfalea Foundation’s Preschool Food & Healthy Habits Initiative.