Originally I was hired to work in the “Koala” room, an age group of 2-3 and a half year olds, but as time and staff have moved along I now find myself in the Kindy room. I’ve gotten to the point that I’m really happy with the program and Observation system I helped redesign after the introduction of the Early Years Learning Framework. I’m happy with the girls I work with, I’m happy with how the room is shaping up and I’m happy with our routine. What is playing on my mind though, is our outdoor area. “Look! A bug!”
My current age group has a long yard that is half astro turf and half cement. All the natural elements fall into the Koala yard – which we share in the mornings and afternoons but are separated from during the day. I simply adore looking at other educators blogs as they show off a water feature, a rocky outcropping or a muddy hole to dig in. Then I have to stop and think if I’m crazy to try and bring dirt back into fashion!
When I was working with the Koalas, I added a rockery and logs to the area near our sandpit. It’s no bushland wonder, but it is a nice little oasis. I have loved watching how the kids and staff have used and moved the pieces to create current learning areas that reflect the children’s interests in play.
Now I’m looking at water walls, (I’m so sorry, but I’ve forgotten where I got this from, if you know, link me in!) which could be used with sand in the cooler months and still offer the experimentation and skills of this lively little one.
Years ago I went to conference that invited us to think of the children who like to play alone or in small groups, who need to block out the running, the noise and the levels of sensory input being delivered by the average child care centre. We looked an arrangement of small tables set up to invite play. We talked about how to create the boundaries for these areas and how to make them age appropriate.
(thanks to http://www.playbasedlearning.com.au/2011/02/miniature-playscape-fences/ for reference pictures and re-igniting my imagination)
We set up some on tables against the wall, others on velour mats on the floor and even more on a table surrounded by a hanging mozzie net. The response was Amazing! We had children engaged in different areas, all wanting to be part of these quiet zones! We had to bring in a timed system at first so that the pressure could be taken off the areas and all the children could experience them, then as the original novelty drew off the children began to really play. Creating stories and using the props in their own way, whilst still keeping these miniature play zones to their areas and maintaining the quiet area rules.
What I want to create in our yard is actually an outdoor classroom. One that teaches us more about being outside than gross motor skills and ‘outside voices’. My aim is to find more of those logs for use as chairs around some sort of raised bench or box with an added edge to keep a little rock garden/fairy garden/zen garden/dinosaur environment in. I’d love this to be surrounded by (potted) palms and trees so that even the temperature and lighting tell the story of a special place. I will figure out a way to create a pouring/water wall, from PVC pipes to bottomless jugs, I’ll connect it to one of the old outdoor banners if I have to! I want a discovery area for weighing and balancing, rolling and stacking and I’d love this to be done with large wooden discs cut from locally trimmed branches. I want MUD people! I want rivers and causeways. I want worms and bridges. I want to create a place where our generation of Screen Time kids will want to go, to be inspired and play out all those things they’ve seen but not yet experienced!