We started our journey outside on a trail walk in the little forest behind the ECE classroom at Conestoga College again. We went with the lens of using our senses in the environment to see, hear, feel, touch and think about tasting what we found outside. Under this lens, I keep going back to where my little ones would venture off to on this adventure, who would be interested in what, who would require a little more support, and who would be off to discover with little encouragement from me.
My little ones, depending on their abilities all would choose one of these to climb on, and try and jump off. Thankfully, the littler ones, would not be able to climb onto the taller one. I do not help them climb up, if they can get there, I will stand close and support the process, but to help them get up to a place that is to high for them to climb, seems a little unsafe for my comfort zone.
We took some time to break down some research, we broke into groups and looked at the Cultivating Outdoors Classroom, Designing and Implementing Child-Centered Learning Environments, by Eric M. Nelson, Ma, 2012, Chapter 2, Working with Children in the Outdoor Classroom.
"1)Thinking About the Outdoors as a Classroom, 2)Working in Natural Environments, 3)Working with Children Outdoors, 4)Engaging Engaged Children, and 5)Teachers Role." Each of these have powerful expectations and implications on the education of children. My group looked at 4)Engaging Engaged Children "Engaging children is the primary objective of the Outdoor Classroom. Engagement doesn't happen by accident: it required the support of teachers on many levels."Nelson, 2012 The fact is that "Teachers' engagement includes many steps: awareness, observation, connection, reception, acceptance, alignment, empathy, unconditional positive regard, understanding, presence, communication, action, reflection, evaluation and learning." Nelson, 2012
I was blessed with being able to take this workshop. It has brought to mind a few pieces that I need to keep in the forefront of my mind. I am an agent of change, if my program is not working, I need to look at the Action Research Cycle and work through the steps to come to a clear awareness of what needs to be focused on to insure that my environment is working effectively for the children I serve each day.
My SMART goal is to help children get out from behind the windows and start exploring their world hands on. Let's get them outdoors, there is not bad weather, simply bad clothing for the weather conditions.
so, I am going to finish this blog with a wonderful quote from Nelson's book, Cultivating Outdoor Classrooms, taking a look at the "Environment as the Teacher... Placing children at individual desks says something different then gathering them in a group around round a table. Round rooms read to the eye differently than square ones. Classrooms without windows affect children differently than ones with windows. Not surprisingly, the Outdoor Classroom a paradigm shift..." Paradigm shifts according to the dictionary "is a fundamental change in approach."
Personally, I truly hope there are eager RECE's, home childcare providers, teachers, and policy makers ready for this shift in approach.
Lesley Cressman, RECE