Some kids always manage to find the only mud puddle after a rainy day in the schoolyard; others may grip a handful of soil in their efforts to catch a centipede. Kids unless taught other wise yearn to comb their fingers through the soil, skip a stone across a brook, and stack, sort, and collect materials form the earth. However, not all kids have the privilege of the earthy bounty, if it is paved over by concrete. In this case we can make attempts to either venture on field trips that provide this an outdoor outlet or head to the nearest park around your school. Nature is more than just a playground; it is has pertinent lessons that can conceivable carry a lifetime.
The optimal situation for shaping learning experiences in the field of science is a dose of creative improvisation, a neighborhood park, the back yard, or the schoolyard. Kids find just the right experiments in earth science, when adults provide, well just the right dose of ingenuity, resourcefulness, and creativity.
Providing simple raw earth materials in the play yard at school or at home, can foster deeper connections into the field of science, improve balance and coordination, aspiring innovative ideas, promote cooperative games, and allow the space for kids empower themselves. Having these natural materials in the areas that youth spend significant time costs next to nothing – logs, stumps, wood, gravel, stones, bamboo sticks, all, will certainly do the trick. Car, truck, or tractor size tires (I know, not exactly natural, but is definitely utilitarian and enables ways to reuse, what would probably end up in a landfill.) can provide timeless opportunities for a hiding out, hanging out, building forts, for climbing over, in, and around or for inspiring imaginative play.
Boulders of a smooth surface also can be implemented into the play yard for shimming around, for attempted boulder climbs, and make the perfect spot for basking in the sunlight. Not to mention, the top surface can be a congregation for science experiments, such as mixing sand, mud, or clay. In the yard at our Community school we’re fortunate enough to a have a clay based soil, which with a bit of water and creative juices can make whatever sculpture a young mind what’s to wrap their imagination around.
Wooden stumps makes just the right obstacle course, table, chair, or desired object to topple over or roll across the yard, with all a four years olds might. Stumps also make perfect stepping stones (alright wood to be exact, but you get the picture) for setting up bridges, for stacking, or for balancing other wooden planks.
Outside is a haven for transporting objects; stacked tires can become a portal for a rocket ship or rabbit hole. Soil, sand, gravel, and woodchips, can become the volcano. Plants that are resilient to being pulled, poked, and picked need to accessible for young hands to harvest. Lemon Balm, Rose Mary, and Peppermint are a few prolific plants we have in our garden at school that are open range for picking.
Adventuring into the outdoors also entails leaving school behind. Our class does a fieldtrip a week. There is the neighborhood park where there is a grouping of cedar trees with just the right limbs and density for climbing great heights. The branches out also quite pliable making the lower level like springboards for jumping off.
The Community School I teach at is now working on a play yard revitalization project. The mission is to transform our Big yard into an area the interconnects the urban setting into a more green hiatus that is physically more challenging, promotes more opportunities for sensory integration, leaves more green space for kids to congregate and pick flowers and edible herbs, and provides materials that one may stumble over in a natural setting such as chunky size stumps, mountainous size boulders, and tall slender grass for hiding out at catching ones breath. The core of this project has been a creative influx of energy from parents and teachers who have a dedication towards making the school more green, sustainable, and honorable of supporting the whole child, and this goes along with the ideas of presenting outdoor materials to expand the curriculum. Much of the decision making of what materiuals would optimally suite our grounds and the kids have been through observation of their general interests, while taking into account the positioning on the sun during the day and how the designing of the project can include their youths interactions for greater opportunities. For example, our hillside will be build into terraces that enable to construction of a slide, an rock climbing wall, and bouldering wall, a rain catchment barrel with spickot will enable kids to have access to water for mixing projects, a trail will connect the main features along the hill, while resilient grasses and wildflowers will allow for roaming, stamping, tumbling, and picking.
The transformation of a school yard is vital part of any curriculum at a school. This open space for uninterrupted playing during “recess” time is paramount not only to the health and well-being of a child, but is another extension of the curriculum. Customizing a yard to suite the interests of individuals and groups of kids at school does not demand elaborate play structures or playground systems that come, but conscious creative envisioning that puts the growth of the whole child in mind. And the takes time, some envisioning by parents, teachers, and the school community, before the actual work can be done. In the end, outside space is just as precious, if not a bit more than the classroom environment when it comes to learning.