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The Out-of-Doors & Learning What is the nature of our society? What are our goals? What are the consequences for children & for our society if play & learning out-of-doors do not occur? Important Questions to Ask Nature of Society Characteristics of our culture cooperative/competitive

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important questions to ask

What is the nature of our society?

  • What are our goals?
  • What are the consequences for children & for our society if play & learning out-of-doors do not occur?
Important Questions to Ask
nature of society
Nature of Society
  • Characteristics of our culture
          • cooperative/competitive
          • collaborative/individualistic
          • prosocial/egotistical
          • autonomous/complianct
          • initiative/guilt
          • industry/inferiority
societal goals
Societal Goals
  • To realize individual & group potential
  • To support the common good.
  • To be active citizens in a democracy.
why are outdoor learning play important
Why are Outdoor Learning & Play Important?
  • The insightful educator recognizes the critical importance of play & assumes the responsibility to plan for children's quality play.
  • Outdoor activities provide unique learning which are different from traditional indoor activities.
questions to ask
Questions to Ask
  • What is play?
  • What is learning?
  • What is the outdoor classroom?
what about play

A significant part of learning.

    • An essential part of family & community life.
    • Children need opportunities at leisure.
  • Association for the Child’s Right to Play
  • International Play Association,
What About Play?
transcendental play
Transcendental Play
  • Transcendental play characterized by risk, obsession, ecstasy & intense mental states.
  • What kind of environment creates a context for such animated triumphant play?

Frost, 2004

play environments
Play Environments
  • Plan for built & natural spaces.
  • Complex play spaces provide multiple choices.
  • Varied textures & materials available for exploration.
  • Small, large, & individual grouping occur naturally.
  • Provide private & public space.
  • Provide for a range of ability & interest.
what happens during play
What Happens During Play?
  • During play the child:
      • Interacts with others.
      • Interacts with the physical world.
what does brain research say
What Does Brain Research Say?

Play creates neurological connections

necessary for learning.

defining quality play
Intrinsically motivated

Freely chosen

Process not product


Defining Quality Play
  • Non-literal
what does this mean
What Does This Mean?
  • Children control play activity.
  • Adults do not define terms.
  • Adults provide time, opportunity, & material.
  • Outdoor play is different from indoor play.
  • Children experience unique learning alternatives.
outdoor play hands on learning
Outdoor Play & Hands-On Learning
  • Children engage the physical, animal & human world in different ways than accomplished indoors.
  • Children observe the outdoors.
  • Children become part of the environment.
four kinds of play


  • Social
  • Emotional
  • Cognitive
Four Kinds of Play
play is physical
Play is Physical
  • Contributes to fine & gross learning.
  • Active physical play helps joint & muscular disabilities.
  • Outdoors provides new situations & people to engage.
  • Allows children to test skills without risk.
styles of social play
Styles of Social Play
  • Parten’s (1932) six styles of social play move from least to most social maturity.
  • Not levels because children move back & forth through styles.

Iasenberg & Jalongo, 2001

do you observe styles of social maturity in play
Do You Observe Styles of Social Maturity in Play?
  • Unoccupied: not engaged, goal not evident.
  • Onlooker: observes, asks questions, talks with, does not engage in play activity.

Continued on next slide

observed styles of social maturity in play
Observed Styles of Social Maturity in Play
  • Solitary: independent players; use own toys.
  • Parallel: plays alongside or nearby; not with others.
  • Cooperative: Complex organization; shared goals.

Paarten 1932, Isenberg & Jalongo 2001

do you see the styles
Do You See the Styles?
  • Outdoor playscapes provide additional opportunities for children to initiate & engage in a range of social maturity.
  • Children need various opportunities to practice where they choose to be cooperative & where they prefer to be solitary players.
play is emotional
Play Is Emotional
  • Enhance self-esteem.
  • Promote self-concept.
  • Risk free, new experiences.
  • Test Individual strengths.
play is cognitive
Play is Cognitive
  • Children make sense of the world.
  • Solve relevant problems.
  • Express thoughts.
  • Interpret & plan action.
  • Use language.
what is needed for play
What is Needed for Play?
  • Time
  • Opportunity
  • Materials
play out of doors
Play Out-of-Doors
  • The out-of-doors environment provides a broad range of opportunities uniquely different from traditional indoor play activities.
  • Consider the different materials, opportunities & people.
about time
About Time
  • At least 30-50 minutes needed for quality play.
  • Time to explore different materials & people before play begins.
  • First, the child explores the object to determine “What does this object do?” Then, the play begins when the child asks, “What can I do with this object?”
about opportunity
About Opportunity
  • Outdoor play is not a privilege earned after the “real work” of school is complete.
  • Outdoor play holds legitimacy for children’s learning.
  • Provide both guided & free play.
guided free play
Guided & Free Play
  • Both are important.
  • Guided play relates to theme/curriculum objectives.
  • Free play chosen by child.
guided play
Guided Play
  • Art- sketches of bird habitats.
  • Constructive- replicate animal habitats.
  • Role play- bears in cave.
  • Language Arts- poems associated with theme.
  • Science- record pond data.
free play
Free Play
  • Role play- NASCAR
  • Constructive- sand, water, dirt
  • Art- sculptures (snow, sand, stones)
  • Gross motor- running, ball toss
  • Science- sand castles, finger paint
about materials
About Materials
  • Use both man-made & natural.
  • Provide a broad range.
  • Allow innovative use.
what about learning





What About Learning?
learning outdoors
Learning Outdoors
  • The out-of-doors becomes the integrating context for learning.
  • Do not necessarily focus learning about the environment, or limit to environmental awareness.

Smith-Walters, 2004

types of learning
Types of Learning
  • Formal- curriculum / objectives
  • Informal- parks, community, project work, play
indoor outdoor classrooms
Indoor & Outdoor Classrooms
  • The two build & extend from one another.
  • Both hold value for children’s learning.
what about the outdoor classroom
What About the Outdoor Classroom?
  • Breaks down traditional boundaries between disciplines.
  • Provides hands-on learning experiences.
  • Allow students with a variety of learning styles & backgrounds to experience success.
  • Fosters students’ skill & ability.

Smith-Walters, In Press

Children in the out-of-doors freely interact. Curriculum objectives are met in innovative ways.
the outdoor classroom
The OutdoorClassroom
  • What is it?
  • What does it look like?
  • Who can use it?
  • Where is it?
  • What do you do?
  • Why bother?
what is it
What Is It?
  • Schoolyard
  • Neighborhood
  • Community
  • Park
what does it look like
What Does it Look Like?
  • Simple & not expensive:
      • A window
      • A birdhouse
      • A picnic table
      • A field
who can use it
Who Can Use It?
  • Anyone who plans ahead.
  • Urban, rural, or suburban can participate.
  • Indoors used to plan & follow up.
who teaches out doors
Who Teaches Out Doors?
  • Teachers
  • Community Members
  • Parents
where is the outdoor classroom
Where Is The Outdoor Classroom?
  • Anywhere/everywhere
  • Simple
  • Inexpensive
The outdoor classroom can begin with a single birdhouse. In time, a bird habitat can develop. Children observe, make notes, sketch, do research, & take pictures.
what do you do
What Do You Do?
  • Observe a bird feeding station.
  • Plant a windowsill garden.
  • Draw at a picnic table.
  • Read at a gazebo.
  • Measure pathways.
  • Play at the playground.
  • Build a pond.
Limited outdoor space is effective to introduce children to the outdoor classroom. Before they appreciate the out-of-doors as a distinct environment, children need numerous structured & unstructured outdoor experiences.
what to do
What To Do?
  • Plan regular intimate time outside.
  • Use indoors to plan & follow up.
  • Allow transition times.
  • Examine your playscapes.
benefits of the outdoor classroom
Benefits of the Outdoor Classroom
  • Promotes student performance.
  • Improves standardized test scores.
  • Improves grade point average.
  • Increases willingness to stay on task.


benefits continued
Benefits Continued
  • Greater adaptability to various learning styles.
  • Promotes problem solving & conflict resolution opportunities.
  • Provides for social, emotional, & cognitive development.
  • Promotes physical development.

Smith-Walters, In Press

why bother
Why Bother?
  • Healthiest & richest forms of play
  • Transcendental play
  • Relevant exploration of world

Joe Frost, 2004

what do children do in the outdoor classroom
What Do Children Do in the Outdoor Classroom?
  • Use different communicative skills.
  • Interact with non-school personnel.
  • Engage real problem-solving.
  • Use different equipment, instruments, & tools.
benefits for educators
Benefits For Educators
  • Enhance environmental awareness.
  • Promote sensitivity.
  • Increase commitment.
  • Promote activism.
curriculum integration
Curriculum Integration
  • The out-of-doors has an abundance of hands-on opportunities to explore curriculum.
  • Themes can be extended for numerous hands-on activities.

ConceptMap: Pathways

What different kinds?

What materials?

Where are they


Who designed the


How many are there?

Are there different materials

used to maintain pathways?

What about our school pathways?

Who maintains the pathways

What are the rules for the


What equipment and what uses?


What are the different

Uses for the pathway

What rules for the











the outdoors curriculum
The Outdoors Curriculum
  • Traditional learning applied in different ways.
  • Problems relevant to children’s interests.
  • Use traditional content areas.
  • Different modes of communication.
how to collect information

Learning logs



Tape Recordings



How To Collect Information:
how to represent the information






Role Play

How to Represent the Information?
integrate curriculum
Integrate Curriculum
  • The indoor & outdoor classrooms build on one another.
  • Plan & follow-up learning indoors.
what about science
What About Science?
  • Children’s outdoor play underlies scientific theory-building.

Chaille & Britain, 2003

what about physics
What About Physics?
  • Movement experiences with bodies & objects.
  • Running, skipping, throwing, & falling.
  • Using balls, swings, & sliding.
using slides
Using Slides
  • A pendulum & an inclined plane.
  • Allow children to explore, experiment, & interpret.

Morrison, 1995

science the outdoors
Science & the Outdoors
  • Less explicit clues.
  • More materials.
Seasonal differences cause changes in nature. Year long projects allow children to observe & collect data for analysis & interpretation.
introduce children to




Dreyer & Bryte, 1990




Balance Beams

Introduce Children To:
questions for the children to ask
Questions For the Children to Ask:
  • Can I make it move?
  • Can I change it?
  • How do I fit?

Chaille & Tian, 2004

what is science
What is Science?
  • Science is, “a style that leads a person to wonder, to seek, to discover, to know, & then to wonder anew.”

Holt, 1991, p. 181

ecological perspective
Ecological Perspective
  • Help children to understand the complex relationship in the world.
  • Help children understand the long-term effects of human actions on these patterns.
  • Learn about the living natural world.

Chaille & Britain, 2003

Building & maintaining a pond creates an abundance of learning opportunities. As a wetland, children observe & record information.
what about art
What About Art?
  • Getting out – out of the usual, out of the ordinary, out of the box, out of our mindsets– one of the goals of the creativearts.

Curran, 2004

what is art
What is Art?
  • Making the strange familiar & making the familiar strange is an accordion-like process of learning & innovation.
  • The outdoors provide unique artful opportunities.

Gordon & Poze, 1972

zen of seeing
Zen of Seeing:
  • Avoid looking at papers while drawing.
  • Keep your eyes on the subject.
sense of place
Built Environments





Natural Environments




Sense of Place
found art








Found Art

Found Objects: natural & man-made

photo text
Photo - Text
  • Using photographs, children make meaning of their world.

Mueller, 1993

field orientated projects
Field-Orientated Projects:
  • More creative discussion.
  • Produce original, high quality work.
  • Improve team skills as leaders.
  • Improve task management.
  • Facilitate communication.
  • Greater enthusiasm.

Beirsdorfer & Davis, 1994

why field oriented learning
Why Field-Oriented Learning?
  • Positive effects upon students’ understanding & long term retention of targeted concepts.

Mackenzie & White, 1982

what about language arts
What About Language Arts?
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Listening
  • Speaking
outdoor education can
  • Create a context where adults can intervene in shaping the behaviors.
  • Children communicate with non-school personnel.

Lynn, 1999

children can
Children Can:
  • Pose & solve real problems.
  • Develop civic competence.

Stone & Stone, 2004

what about social studies
What About Social Studies?
  • Economics
  • Geography
  • History
  • Sociology
  • Political Science
outdoor games
Outdoor Games
  • Study & model historical games:
  • How did the culture/society play?
  • Who played?

Stone & Stone, 2004

children with special needs the out of doors
Children With Special Needs & the Out-of-Doors
  • Not merely a logistic placement.
  • Plan for meaningful participation.
  • Engage activities at their highest level.
supporting children with special needs
Supporting Children With Special Needs
  • Be non stigmatizing & unobtrusive.
  • Observe child’s right to control environment.
  • Respect/support individual autonomy.

Kreft 2004

what to consider
What To Consider
  • Develop with input from family members.
  • Consistently monitor & evaluate.
  • Build a sense of community.
  • Facilitate acceptance of difference.
ask yourself
Ask Yourself:
  • What are children’s specific strengths & needs?
  • What outdoor aspects are particularly pleasing?
  • What multi-sensory activities are available?
  • What adaptations are necessary?
what about recess
What About Recess?
  • Nearly 40% of American schools have removed recess completely as compared to only 10% in 1989.

Kieff, 2002 & Pellegrini, 1995

recess behavior
Recess & Behavior
  • With recess on task 90% of the time – only 7% fidgeting.
  • Improvement for students with ADD & gifted.

Jarrett et. al, 1998

recess as a small society
Recess As a Small Society:
  • Members must:
    • Be governed by rules.
    • Accomplish tasks.
    • Be socialized.
    • Be limited to feelings, behaviors, & attitudes.
    • Socialize with others.

Pellegrini & Bjorklund, 1996

what about rough and tumble play
What About Rough and Tumble Play?
  • Understand play face.
  • Indicates trust.
  • Demonstrates affection.
why recess
Why Recess?
  • Children understand their world when they are active & when they seek solutions for themselves.
  • Children develop social knowledge & skills.
  • rescourcecollection-intro.html
  • The Coalition for Education in the Outdoors
  • Outward Bound
  • Foxfire Approach

Beiersdorfer, R.A. & Davis W.E. (1994). Suggestions for planning a class field trip. Journal of College Science Teaching, 23, 307-311.

Chaille, C & Britain, L. (2003). The young child as scientist: A constructivist approach to early childhood science education. New York: Allyn & Bacon.

Curran, J. In press. The outdoors and art. In K. Burris & B. Foulkesboyd (Eds.), Outdoor learning and play: Ages 8-12. Olney, MD: Association for Childhood Education International.

Chaile, C. & Tian, X. In press. Outdoors and science. In K. Burris & B. Foulkesboyd (Eds.), Outdoor learning and play: Ages 8-12. Olney, MD: Association for Childhood Education International.

Dreyer, K.J. & Bryte, J. (1990). Slides, swings, and science. Science and Children, 36-37.


Frost, J. In press. The out-of-doors and play. In K. Burris & B. Foulkesboyd (Eds.), Outdoor learning and play: Ages 8-12.

Olney, MD: Association for Childhood Education International.

Gordon, W.J.J. & Poze, T. (1972). Strange & Familiar. Boston, MA: Synectics Education Systems.

Holt, B. (1991) Science with young children. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Isenberg, J.P., & Jalongo, M.R. (2001). Creating expression and play in early childhood. New Jersey: Merrill Prentice Hall.

Jensen, E. (2000). Moving with the brain in mind. Educational Leadership, 58 (3), 34-37.

Mackenzie A., & White, R. (1982). Fieldwork in geography and Long-term memory structures. American Education ResearchJournal, 19, 623-632.

Morrison, K.(1995). Science by discovery. Texas Child Care.

Mueller, F. L. (1993).  Phototext Authoring:  Embracing diversity in the classroom. Paper and activity presentation at the 1993 National Staff Development Council Annual Conference, Dallas, TX.

Parten, M. (1932). Social Participation among preschool children. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 27, 243- 269.

Smith-Walters, C. In press. The outdoors classroom. In K. Burris & B. Foulkesboyd (Eds.), Outdoor learning and play: Ages 8-12. Olney, MD: Association for Childhood Education International.

Stone, S. & Stone, W. In press. The outdoors and social studies. In K. Burris & B. Foulkesboyd (Eds.), Outdoor learning and play: Ages 8-12. Olney, MD: Association for Childhood Education International

The Outdoor Classroom

Is Your Choice

  • Meet curriculum objectives.
  • Provide for children’s play.
  • Extend understanding of the world.