Especially when the weather has been as nice as it has this fall, there is no reason to keep student learning contained to the four walls of the classroom. Research shows that children benefit and learn from nature experiences.
Recently, the outdoors served as a powerful tool to help meet educational goals at West Side Christian School. These young learners engaged in some exciting, innovative learning which helped to inspire their curious minds.
This makes the outdoors an ideal solution to help meet 10 early childhood learning goals!
1.The children transfer their familiarity with the classroom routine and are able to adapt to following directions outside.
In the classroom the young 5’s were introduced to their five sense task – to observe the leaves using their five senses. Now let’s take your learning outside.
2. Children grow in their capacity to use effective listening skills and understand what is said to them.
Once outside, its time to get to work. Let’s find your leaf and use your senses to find out more.
3. Children move from solving problems through trial and error.
The gusts of winds began to pick up . This gave the students the opportunity to problem solve, “How can I accomplish this task and not have the wind get in the way?”
4. Children develop their writing skills to communicate and express themselves.
The children are learning to make careful observations of their leaves and recorded their findings. They put their fine motor skills to use to illustrate what they discovered.
5. Children build their visual thinking skills through exploration with shape and the spaces in their environment.6. Children develop positive science attitudes through observations (using their senses).
What colors do you see in the leaves? When you touch the leaf how does it feel? What do you smell when you hold the leaf up to your nose? Students used their sense of sight, smell, and hearing to explore the similarities and differences in leaves.
“What made these bump? Not all the leaves have them?” Students are asking questions to find out more.
9. Children increase their understanding of the relationship between people and their environment and the importance of taking care of their environment.
10. Children shared about what they felt, smelled, heard, and saw. The students made observations to focus on a specific sense.
“Because exploring nature is a completely sensory experience, early experiences with the natural world excite children’s imaginations and foster their inborn sense of wonder and curiosity, which are motivators for lifelong learning. The introduction of environmental education at the early childhood level reaches children at the key developmental period of their lives and has the potential for influencing lifelong attitudes, values, patterns and behaviors toward the natural world.” (Project Learning Tree, 2011, p. 3)
About the Author: Janet Staal didn’t want to contain student learning to the confines of a desk, so she broke down the walls and began teaching outside. Equipped with a teaching certification in elementary education (Science and Math emphasis), she began her adventures as an educator. She now works as Environmental Education Consultant – growing more opportunities to take student learning outside!
Environmental experiences for early childhood. (2011). Washington, D.C.: Project Learning Tree, American Forest Foundation.