There are many enhanced opportunities for learning, discovery and physical activity in our new outdoor classroom. Our cozy, yet stimulating environment, with all its natural qualities, has allowed us to learn and play amongst the plants and critters that share our space. Embracing the unique physical design, provided components, and added accessories (mentioned in Stories from our Beloved Outdoor Classroom), the staff and students have welcomed the wildlife, created nature-based games, and engaged in special projects and group activities.
Critters have been detected in the outdoor classroom. A shy resident chipmunk was found to be living behind the shelving unit. Snails, ladybugs, moths, and a variety of insects have been adopted and taken indoors to be observed. Butterflies have been spotted passing through in warmer weather. The children are always delighted to discover these living creatures.
The JKs created and hung bird feeders, thus attracting a small plump bird that hung around for a couple weeks. Blue jays, robins, and cardinals have been noted to take refuge in the tall pine and to serenade us with their unique warbles, whistles, chirps, and proclamations. With maturity, our new saplings will provide increasing possibilities for nesting and congregating of our feathered friends.
The SKs made tic tac toe board games using painted stone bumble bees and ladybugs. The boards were cut by SK teacher, Mr. Magee, under watchful supervision of many curious students. The students then sanded the rough edges with much enjoyment. The games will be added to the outdoor curriculum cupboards for other classes to enjoy.
My primary science club engaged in a project to save the monarchs. These students created a game for sharing using paper monarchs mounted on clothespins to be clipped and hidden throughout the playground shrubbery. When the SKs were introduced to the game they were very intrigued with the search and find aspects of the game. Science club members also planted milkweed seeds with hopes that when the monarchs migrate north again, there will be food for their caterpillars.
Added accessories have extended play in interesting ways. With the measuring tapes, the children have been measuring each other. They also built fabric forts around the upright posts with clothespins and a little help from their teachers. Round slabs of wood have been used as steering wheels to race around the hills and straightaways. Brushes and water in paint trays have been used to paint the fort, the brick wall, and chalkboard in a variety of “colours”.
Throughout the afternoon, the outdoor classroom and amphitheater has been booked by teachers for a variety of reasons: class meetings, finding letters and numbers in the environment, making letters of the alphabet using bodies, studying structures and the seasons, discussing and practising inclusive play, engaging in quiet reading time, looking for bugs, and holding citizenship classes. More recently, a kindergarten physical education class was transported to this space.
It certainly is wonderful to have this amazing outdoor classroom space created by Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds for the unique needs and dreams of KCS students and staff. Enrichment and much enjoyment has been added to enhance the school day in such a variety of ways!
Sharon Freeman, RECE
Senior Kindergarten Teacher
Kingsway College School