The outdoor classroom

Recently there has been such a buzz of activity in our Early Learning outdoor environment. With the warmth and windy weather unfolding, the children have been keen to explore more of our local spaces.

The outdoor play environment provides children with space to explore movement and natural elements, as well as organise and direct their own play activities.

“Loose parts play” has become a way of simplifying our environment and providing children with open ended materials with no specific outcome. This heightens the children’s own sense of agency. Through their own lively explorations, skills and ideas are emerging whereby their knowledge can be scaffolded.

New challenges

What can you do with a skipping rope, a tyre and a climbing frame?

Our explorations of this question began with one of the students, Astrid, wrapping a skipping rope around a tyre and playing with tension and motion. Soon others were inspired by her discovery and began to explore these ideas in their own way.

Another student, Beau, found a different way to loop the rope around the tyre and move it across the playground. The challenge became to only use the skipping rope to move the tyre, creating many variations of process. The students observed their peers and learnt by noticing details, then applying different techniques to their own actions.

Developing spatial awareness is another area of recent interest and development. The students have practised walking backwards, and walking beside a friend who moves a juxtaposed object.

The Preschool students, have shown curiosity in working together. Together they have wrapped skipping ropes around the climbing frame, expressing delight in pulling motions. Through this exercise, the students have been discovering their upper arm strength.  Here we have also seen the children negotiate space, stopping at times as little fingers become dexterous and agile in tying knots.

Developing their safety awareness and care for one another in their surrounds is another recent aspect of development. With supervision, the children are encouraged to take risks in their exploration.

IGS in bloom

Our garden has been blossoming with flowers of late. Outdoors, the children are eager to care for plants by watering them and observing their growth. Evolving a sense of aesthetics, we decided to cut some flowers and arrange them in small vases. Sharing the flowers on our morning tea tables gave the children much joy in perceiving how nature can brighten their day.

Boosting movement

Developing activities to engage children’s feet has been another recent experiment. Besides displaying kicking techniques in swimming, martial arts and dance, and by kicking a ball, we were challenged to advance this technique to offer children embodied learning opportunities. Hence the idea of a foot gym came about. Tying a piece of mesh over the bottom of the pergola, the children were inquisitive.

“It looks like a trampoline!” Violet said.

Adding shaker eggs, the children have been challenged to move objects simply by kicking with their feet. There have been many moments of frustration, as different neural pathways activate. Understandably at times there has been the odd hand trying to move the object, however as with all challenges, the students are engaging with ways to build and develop resilience.   

Working with core muscle strength, there has been squirming, rolling and lifting of lower limbs to kick those items out of the pergola. These experiences have been very enjoyable for all, and for those requiring a bigger challenge, various weighted objects have been added to heighten resistance.

Games have also developed whereby children can identify colours and objects to kick specifically, describing their experiences in the different languages they are learning.