by clicking the arrows at the side of the page, or by using the toolbar.
by clicking anywhere on the page.
by dragging the page around when zoomed in.
by clicking anywhere on the page when zoomed in.
web sites or send emails by clicking on hyperlinks.
Email this page to a friend
Search this issue
Index - jump to page or section
Archive - view past issues
Reflections Magazine : Reflections Issue 61, 2015
17 REFLECTIONS • GOWRIE AUSTRALIA • SUMMER 2015 - ISSUE 61 and then go outside to build.’ ‘Sometimes cool and sometimes warm.’ ‘I feel happy because I can go inside and outside’. Astoundingly, all the preschool children said they would like the door open all the time. It was evident that the children appreciated having the choice and, overall, it made them feel happy. When we asked the children what they learnt outside, many of them did not know how to answer this question. Those that did, focussed more on physical learning such as running and using the bikes. This confirmed for us that the children did not have a broad knowledge of all the learning possibilities that can happen outside, perhaps because they weren’t given the opportunity to experience other possible learning opportunities? Our next step was to ask educators to complete surveys to assess their view of the outdoor environment. Surveying the educators was important to find out what they thought their role was in the outdoor environment, what learning they thought might happen in the outdoors, what they saw as the benefits of outdoor play and what they felt were the barriers to longer periods of indoor/outdoor play. Overall, the educators felt that their role in the outdoor environment was to provide a safe and enjoyable environment whilst supervising children in play. While this is of course important, we felt the educators weren’t seeing how important they were in the environment, and what they could offer. When looking at the benefits of the outdoor environment, our educators’ focus was around physical play, gross motor skills, exercise, running and a bigger space. It was evident that the educators were seeing the outdoors as a place to ‘let off steam’, and a place focused only around physical learning. We could see a connection between the children’s thoughts and the educators’ thoughts. Educators identified barriers to having indoor/outdoor play as including the weather, programmed activities, sleep times, routines and the belief that two staff members is not always sufficient to manage inside and outside play at the same time. With this new data collated we felt it would be good to create times in a day where each of our six rooms completed a time sample. Each room monitored one hour of indoor/outdoor play in the morning and in the afternoon to see where the children were playing, what activities they were being offered, and what they felt the disadvantages were. This would allow educators to look at the experience of indoor/outdoor play more deeply and give us the opportunity to gather more data. During this time we took photos to see where the children were playing and where engagement was happening. The results of these time samples showed that the educators were offering a wide range of activities both inside and outside to cover all areas of learning. Educators identified the disadvantage of having a larger group of children in one area, thereby compromising supervision. However, most educators felt that giving children the choice was beneficial and offered greater opportunities for play and learning. When we collated the time samples that were taken during the indoor/outdoor playtime the numbers showed that across all six rooms, children were predominantly evenly spread throughout this time. Looking over the photos it was also evident that the children seemed to be more engaged where educators were located in both environments, confirming for us the importance of the role of the educator. With all this data collected we developed a plan to work within the whole service to improve and encourage the practice of indoor/outdoor play. We presented our findings at a Team Meeting where we unpacked our project and watched Ann Paleo’s video Thinking Big, an investigation of how activities can be extended in both the indoor and outdoor spaces. Our educational leader created an inspiration wall in the staff room which all educators were given the opportunity to add to with articles, ideas they found, or things that worked well in their own outdoor environment. We also added ‘outdoor environments’ to our program to allow educators to think and extend further within the program. To make the outdoors a more exciting place of play we started to add more permanent structures such as mud kitchens, fairy gardens, more gardens and wooden logs. Preschool educators started to role model setting up learning areas in the outdoor space, and creating small pockets of play, rather than having one large area for physical play. Having these small pockets of play would help to create smaller groups of children and more engagement - a similar setup to how we create small group experiences indoors. In doing this, we made sure activities, such as puzzles and lego, that were considered as indoor activities only, were available outside. Weekly nature walks in and around the surrounding areas were introduced to further extend our preschool children’s learning in the outdoor environment and to give the children an opportunity to discover different natural environments, including different risk taking scenarios. In addition, a permanent mud patch has been built in the over-threes’ yard so that children can explore mud on a daily basis. After three months of making these changes we wanted to see if the educators’ views had changed, and what the children had learnt from the changes. We again surveyed the educators and introduced the term ‘co-learner’. Did they think being a co-learner in the outdoor environment was as valuable as supervision? We heard responses like, ‘ Ye s , if we work together in our environments then supervision will happen naturally.’ We could see a shift already! We wanted to know if educators’ views on the indoor/ outdoor environment had changed and responses included, Understanding Practice through Professional Learning
Reflections Issue 60 Spring 2015