There is mounting evidence that outdoor education, specifically curriculum-based educational activities that take place outside of the classroom, provides a wealth of benefits for preschool and elementary school children. These include, but are not limited to:
Learning how to overcome adversity
Enhanced personal and social development
Increased appreciation for the natural world
Improved problem-solving skills
- Enhanced teamwork
Although many teachers and administrators embrace the philosophy of outdoor education, there is a degree of risk aversion to experiential learning in an outdoor environment. The concern is that most outdoor education activities present tasks that are too challenging or beyond the physicality of the average child. This creates an obstacle to the overwhelming benefits of outdoor education, but it’s an obstacle that can be overcome with the right approach.
Compliant products that meet national education standards
Outdoor education doesn’t have to involve excursions into a forest or along a whitewater river to create a love of nature. Likewise, a field trip to a museum or a zoo isn’t required to expand a child’s understanding of creativity or an animal’s natural habitat. By selecting the right playground products that are compliant with safety regulations and in line with national education standards, schools and learning centers can create a unique outdoor learning experience that easily integrates with a school’s existing curriculum and a teacher’s lesson plans. The combination can be a powerful tool in making the lessons meaningful and memorable.
Creating the learning environment
It’s important to identify the skills and abilities you wish to develop in your students when selecting playground products for an outdoor learning environment. Creativity and art appreciation can be enhanced with an art center or outdoor painting area.
Products like GameTime’s Creative Art Center have a transparent plastic panel for children to use as a canvas, as well as lots of storage areas for cups, paints and other art supplies. It is constructed of durable, all-weather materials that are designed to withstand the elements, as well as frequent use by children of all ages. Art centers like this also help to improve fine motor skills and may enhance social interaction and cooperative play.
Gardening and planting are excellent outdoor education activities for enhancing a child’s appreciation for the natural environment. They also help improve fine motor skills and encourage cooperative activities that create opportunities for teamwork. These are also great activities for studying the life cycle of plants.
GameTime’s Garden Planter can be configured to create a planting area of almost any size. The four-foot nature-themed plastic curbs are durable and low-maintenance and can be expanded as your garden area grows. For smaller spaces, or for an accessible garden area, GameTime offers an elevated Planter Sandbox that is a perfect place to encourage children of all abilities to reconnect with the natural environment as they plant seeds and watch them grow over time.
Classroom learning about the water cycle or the life cycle of animals can be enhanced with outdoor play products as well. The Sounds of Water panels from GameTime features water sounds like rain, splashing, creeks and waterfalls. Animal Tracker Panels feature the sounds of different animal species like Black Bears, Grey Wolves and River Otters.
Animal Tracker Panels are available for different geographic habitats like forest animals or animals of the Southwest United States. These panels utilize touch sensors that activate the sounds by the slightest contact of human skin, making them ideal for children with special needs.
Endless opportunities for outdoor education
These are just a few examples of how playground products can be incorporated into an outdoor learning initiative. There are dozens of manufactured products that are ideal for an outdoor classroom. Many of them are accompanied by programming and curriculum that can be incorporated into your own lesson plans. To learn more, contact a GameTime representative in your neighborhood. He or she can help you select the right products for your space and budget, and help ensure your students benefit from a unique outdoor learning experience.