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Old 03-18-2011, 11:36 AM
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Missani Missani is offline Member
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Midwest
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Default Nature Based or Outdoor Classroom

I know some of you do or are thinking of doing a nature based program, so I'm hoping you have some ideas for me. Right now I do a traditional indoor (with plenty of outdoor playtime) program with a preschool curriculum. Maybe I have a huge case of spring fever after a REALLY long winter, but I would love to find a way to spend more time outdoors this summer and still run an educational preschool program at the same time. We do run a more "relaxed" program in the summer, but I have some smart kiddos who thrive off of the more traditional, planned activity, learning numbers and letters type of activities right now. In particular, I have an EXTREMELY bright 4 year old (he is reading any word he sees-not just sight words, can do math problems, loves to find places on the globe, etc.) who does really well when challenged and has a difficult time with less structure.

I love being outside and already integrate gardening and other nature based activities with the kids, we do water play often, we go to the park/on nature hikes, etc. during the summer. However, I am contemplating putting together an outdoor classroom and spending most of our time outside this summer. I'm not sure how to do it, but I've been inspired by a training class that I am attending in April and a community 2 day "Nature Camp" being offered at a local park for preschoolers this summer. I would love to spend this summer (and hopefully many more summers to come) in an outdoor classroom. I have an area that we already use for stories, songs, etc., we have little picnic tables for eating/crafts, I have some easels I could permanently store outside, I could bring the sensory table out. We already have bikes/cars/etc., a play structure, a garden, portable greenhouses, and a sandbox out there. The yard is fenced and I plan to set up some toys, etc. for the littler ones.

What other ideas do you have? Does anyone do this? If so, how is it set up? Do you have manipulatives and other "toys" out there? Does your yard always look like a daycare? I have many ideas, but I don't know how to put them all together and how to do this. I am willing to spend some money to do this (I got a large monetary gift from grandparents of one of my dcks at Christmas that I've been waiting to do something special with), and I would like to set up a quality environment that I can use for many years to come.

Also, do you spend all day (except for naptime) out there, or do you do morning or afternoon or a mix? Do you have a "schedule" (circle time/art/organized play/free play/"traditional" outdoor play), or do you provide the materials and "let them go?" Also, do you have a dramatic play area outside, and if so, do you have any great theming ideas?

I would love to get this Minnesota blood outside more this summer and would love your input! Thanks!
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Old 03-18-2011, 03:30 PM
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snbauser snbauser is offline Member
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: North Carolina
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We try to do as much as we can outside when the weather is nice. We don't typically do our "circle time" outside but will normally do it much earlier in the day and dismiss for shoes right from circle time. Today we had the easel, sensory table, chalk, and bubble maker outside along with all of the "normal" outside stuff. For the easel we just went easy today and brought out markers for them to use but some days it is paint done in various forms. The kids also love when we bring out musical instruments outside and I actually have a set on order that will be just for outside. I like the instruments outside better because it doesn't seem as loud as it does inside.

As far as dramatic play we do have a step 2 kitchen and all of the plates, cups, pots, etc outside with it.

We have also ordered some magnifying glasses for outside that I think the kids will love using since many of them like to find ladybugs, etc.
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Old 03-18-2011, 03:46 PM
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Crystal Crystal is offline
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I highly recommend the book "Natural Playscapes" by Rusty Keeler. You can download a free 26 page sample of the book on his website and there is lots of other useful info there as well.
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Old 03-18-2011, 03:48 PM
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Crystal Crystal is offline
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BTW, be sure to click on resources at the top, and then articles to the left.....LOTS of good stuff there
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Old 03-18-2011, 03:51 PM
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bgmeyers bgmeyers is offline Member
Join Date: Jul 2010
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Check out this preschool!!! I think it would be fantastic for kids.
All out doors!
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Old 03-20-2011, 07:29 AM
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melskids melskids is offline
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we are planning on putting a special science discovery station in this summer in addition to the other areas we are revamping. last summer a momma toad so graciously decided to lay her 2000 eggs in our play area. we had baby toads all summer and the kids were obsessed with them. the problem was, they would carry them around, drop them, fly them in airplanes, and push them on the swings. so this summer i am going to have a special place to "observe" animals more appropriately and humanly. lol

we're going to put in a worm garden, a veggie patch, and a compost.

we're going to plant more bushes and shrubs and flowers, add huge boulders, tree stumps, and rock paths.

the school agers are going to build a wood playhouse so we can get rid of the plastic one.

i'm still thinking about chickens and a pig. maybe.

instead of the plastic canopy over the sand pit, we are going to build one out of wood, and then i can hang wind chimes and hanging flower baskets from it.

now you have me wanting to get outside!!! we still have 6 inches of snow on the ground
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Old 03-20-2011, 08:42 AM
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ammama ammama is offline Member
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Location: Canada
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Originally Posted by Crystal View Post
I highly recommend the book "Natural Playscapes" by Rusty Keeler. You can download a free 26 page sample of the book on his website and there is lots of other useful info there as well.
I bought that book from him, and I LOVE it, but it is expensive, and I have also found many good ideas from just searching for 'natural playscapes' 'natural playgrounds' and similar search phrases online. I find that book is better for community groups who are looking for inspiration and ideas on how to get a natural playground build in their community/school (which is why I bought it in the first place).
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field trip, nature based, outdoor activities

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