Last week, KCCC began our series on Kildare Early Years Services and their experience of participating in Outdoor Classroom Day in May 2018.
What is Outdoor Classroom Day?
Outdoor Classroom Day is a global campaign to celebrate and inspire outdoor learning and play. On the day, thousands of schools around the world take lessons outdoors and prioritise playtime. In 2017, over 2.3 million children worldwide took part, more than 580,000 of those were in the UK and Ireland.
The Outdoor Classroom Day was a day to celebrate what Kildare Early Years services are doing outdoors and inspire other services to get involved and practice and promote outdoor play as an authentic everyday learning experience, rain, hail or shine!
Kildare’s Early Years Services Experiences
Kildare County Childcare Committee (KCCC) invited and encouraged early years services in Co. Kildare celebrate outdoor learning and play by participating in Outdoor Classroom Day on the 17th May 2018.
Early Days Montessori: Kilmeague, Naas, Kildare
Hillhouse Preschool: Tipper Road, Naas, Kildare
Shining Stars Academy: Coneyboro, Athy, Kildare
Our first service sharing their experiences is “Early Days Montessori Playgroup” based in Kilmeague, Naas. Early Days is a sessional based early years’ service that caters for morning and afternoon sessions for children aged 2.5 years to 6 years and are “committed to providing: A high quality service based on the Principles of Síolta, the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education. A developmentally appropriate play-based curriculum based on the themes of Aistear, the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework”.
Outdoor Play at Early Days
The smell of turf fires from surrounding houses in the autumn and winter, the smell of fresh grass in the summer, the sound of the birds busily gathering to build their nests, the sound and sight of aeroplanes overhead, the shape and speed of the clouds, the taste and sensation of raindrops on their tongues, the sound and sight of the crows as they gather on the steeple of a nearby church and the rustle of leaves underfoot.
Children have a huge opportunity to experience these simple things by being afforded the chance to spend time outdoors and while we are based in a rural village, these are the wonderful experiences children are having in our service. Our outdoor environment is a space where children can explore, imagine, investigate, create, mix and concoct, construct, smell, touch, climb, balance and dig amongst other things.
They have the opportunity to engage with small world through our beach, farm, jungle, dinosaur and construction themes. They engage in water play from our water wall, our under the sea small world area to fishing for rainbow fish, sharks and mermaids. Their imagination is endless.
The children create structures in our larger construction site, digging sand, mixing cement, stacking bricks, transporting stones while using wheelbarrows, lorries, diggers and excavators, buckets and shovels. In this space they can be whoever they wish.
In our reading den, an area separated from the rest of the space, they can be observed reading stories, engaging in another fantasy world, or just setting the world to rights with their friends. In our little outdoor house, resources are available for them to create their own artistic masterpieces and there are instruments to enable them to be musicians. This space at times also becomes a coffee shop, a vets’ office, a doctors’ surgery and a supermarket amongst many others.
The children are encouraged and supported to express themselves by painting on our wall, mark making with chalk on the board or on the ground. They are challenged to climb, balance and develop their many other senses in addition to taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing.
In our sensory garden, children can smell and touch various different types of plants and are encouraged to be responsible for all of the small trees, plants and flowers we grow together.
Our outdoor space while not huge, has been created with love, care and attention – all materials where possible are completely natural and recycled, and this encourages children to engage in many types of play such as symbolic, imaginative, superhero, solitary and collaborative. For example, a simple stick can represent many different things to a child.
Being outside brings a new, added, very valuable dimension to children’s learning. We offer seamless provision (for most weeks of the year) for outdoor play where the children are free to choose where they want to be and what activities they wish to engage in. The environment as the “third teacher” can most definitely be observed here as one which supports the children to explore learning which cannot be taught but one which is experienced and lived through the senses, in nature for each and every child.
The benefits of our outdoor play space for children as described above far outweigh the challenges of lack of funding and health and safety requirements such as; risk assessment twice a day, ensuring all exposed areas of small world and sand are covered at the end of each day, removing these covers each morning, cleaning and sweeping up sand and mud that the children endeavoured to clean up with all their might, ensuring that resources and materials are appropriate and safe. Having applied for capital funding twice and having no success, this space has been created by rummaging in sheds, kitchen presses, kindly asking a landscaper for logs and discs from trees being cut down and working in partnership with parents, accepting resources they may no longer need and can add. Ultimately this journey to creating a warm, inviting and engaging outdoor play space was and continues to be a labour of love, ensuring that we create this space with the children in mind where they are free to engage in play and learning through nature.
Written by: Sinéad Early O'Brien, Owner/Manager
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If you already acknowledge and support the benefits of outdoor play for young children and participate in outdoor play on a daily basis, then this is a day to celebrate what you are doing and inspire other services to get involved.
If your setting is new or needs to develop more outdoor learning opportunities for the children, then use the Outdoor Classroom Day to act as a catalyst for more time outdoors every day.
It’s easy to get involved and there is something everyone can do! Help build a movement that gets children outdoors to play and learn every day!
Sign up to be part of the Outdoor Classroom Day movement today!
Sign up here: https://outdoorclassroomday.org.uk/