An outdoor classroom is exactly what it sounds like, a classroom that is outside. Our outdoor classroom pulls inspiration from our indoor space. The areas we have inside, we also have outside. Our outdoor spaces are influenced by the Nature Explore philosophy.
In 2015, Shunk Child Care, became the first in the State of Maine to have an Outdoor Classroom certified by Nature Explore. We are very proud of our work and want to inspire others to transition their program to be outside as much as possible.
Here are some photos of our before space.
First, I assessed what I had, which was lots of plastic materials. The primary function of the space was for gross motor. I knew in order to have a successful “outdoor classroom” I would need to incorporate all the learning areas, just like I have in my indoor space.
I worked with my staff and got them to jump on board! Everyone was intrigued with the idea of having an outdoor classroom.
We started one step at a time. First by moving our group story time outdoors. Then we started eating our meals on the deck. Our last routine transitioned was nap time. We worked on the rest of the areas slowly over the course of a year.
We still have a large area “action area” which the primary focus is gross motor. We also added….
Here are our after pictures from 2015…
In 2017, I took a college course on designing early childhood education environments. For one of my assignments, I observed the children’s play and how they moved throughout the space. From there I redesigned the space, filling my design with all my “dream ideas.” Well fast forward to 2018 (and after working with a licensed playground architect) my outdoor design is becoming a reality. This was a decision my husband and I made, knowing we needed to replace our deck and fence anyway. They were over 15 years old and showing their age. I hired Three Stone Landscape here in Portland and so far everything is looking magnificent.
Just remember, you do not need to hire a professional. As you can see from our pictures above, you can create a magical space for children without spending a fortune. It just takes planning.