It was a frosty 10 degrees on Monday morning and our schedule for the day included time in the outdoor classroom first period. I was a bit worried that the children would not be enthused about spending time in the chilly yard. For today’s lesson, I put together a special bin of magnifying glasses, mini clipboards, sticky notes and paper, crayons, and our class iPad. Before heading outside, I informed the children that today I had a question for them: “What do you notice in our Outdoor Classroom?” I showed them our special bin of tools for helping them with their noticing. Hands shot up when I asked who might require a magnifying glass. I distributed the materials to the students and we headed outdoors. (*I should mention that I only had about 6 magnifying glasses and 4 clipboards. I had enough paper and crayons for the whole class. In my experience, limiting materials encourages turn taking and sharing).
Any worries I had about the children not being excited to be outdoors disappeared the minute we got outside. The children spread out all over the yard, crouching under bushes, turning over logs, and digging in the soil. Immediately they started recording their thinking and noticing on sticky notes and paper. Some children used the sticky notes to label what they found – placing them on top of flowers and rocks and mushrooms.
When the period was done, we gathered up our materials and headed inside for a sharing circle. Once again I reiterated today’s question: “What did you notice in the Outdoor Classroom?” Seeing as it is only the beginning of the year, I was surprised by the children’s ability to listen to each other’s findings and ask questions. They were truly interested to see and hear about what their classmates discovered. The discussion gradually began to focus on a handful of worms that a group of boys had collected and brought inside with them. We wrapped up our sharing time by deciding as a class that our worms needed further investigation at our classroom Science and Nature Centre. Stay tuned for the interesting discoveries that emerged from our extended worm exploration indoors!
Does your school have an area for outdoor exploration? How do you use the outdoor environment to enhance your Kindergarten program?