Preschool outdoor learners and explorers – inviting the real world in!

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Early childhood educators have long recognised that natural, purposeful outdoor learning spaces are vital for children’s optimum learning; benefitting children physically, socially, emotionally and spiritually. Environmental play offers a multitude of learning benefits – physical skills, building stamina, social skills, managing risks and respect for nature… an enormous list of educational benefits!

The Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) identifies outdoor learning as one of the eight key practices required to promote children’s learning and development – “creating physical and social learning environments outdoors has a positive impact on children’s global learning.”

Last year our scenic outdoors was developed to further enhance and extend children’s learning outcomes.

The outdoors has been created to entice children to engage their senses – to explore light, shade, angles, textures and the seasons. Native plants, trees and grasses have been planted, which has encouraged respect and caring for living things, children enjoying the responsibility of watering with their watering cans. Solitary areas have been constructed too where children can reflect, sit on logs, follow the ground rock maze or engage with still and running water. Daily, the children can be observed exploring the landscaped terraced areas and “learning rooms” that encourage climbing and balancing, sand play, imaginative play-based learning and exploration. Role-playing and dressing up is popular in the wooden house at the very bottom of the garden. There are ramps, rocks, paths and bridges to conquer, areas that entice natural play within plantings, a bug hotel for insect observations and running water for “creek” imaginative play.

Each day, the children connect with nature and use their senses – dirt and digging patches, bugs, lizards, collecting natural items like leaves and pods, finding spaces to “hide” and engage with nature – real world and life experiences in our own preschool backyard. Through this learning, we are providing opportunities for open-ended across curriculum learning, active participation and spontaneity, shared thinking and collaboration, risk-taking, exploration, problem-solving, discovery and soc ial connectedness; multi skill development through engagement in our outdoors. Our learning environment definitely promotes children’s connections with nature and sustainability and offers engaging spaces and learning for children and educators.

As backyards become smaller and parents are more apprehensive about children being out in the community, it is important in our daily outdoors learning that we encourage children to challenge themselves physically, socially and emotionally – supporting all our children’s long term health and well-being .

Each day we seize opportunities to capitalise on the potential of our unique Belair landscape to stimulate rich, reflective learning in our Preschool.

Penny Kerr

Preschool Teacher