Playing, exploring, and the act of simply being outside provides immeasurable opportunities for rich and meaningful early learning experiences. As an educator, outdoor learning is a huge part of what I try to do - and yes, that does mean year round. As my first blog post of the new year, I wanted to share some photos that I believe capture the spark, joy, and endless possibilities of outdoor learning. Photographing and documenting learning is something we embrace in all areas of our program, but I must say that photographing outdoor learning has become something very special for me. There's something about capturing the smallness of our students juxtaposed with the largeness and vastness of the outdoor space they're exploring that I find endlessly inspiring. What stands out to me in the shots I've selected are the moments of joy, the moments of calm, the moments of solitude, the moments of togetherness, and the moments of belonging that arise naturally in nature. I hope these photos of our outdoor learning spark something in you as well.
It wouldn't be right to blog about outdoor learning and not mention the fact that we have a unique location on Toronto Island that allows for many opportunities to spend time in nature. That being said, I know that the reality for many can mean small outdoor spaces and lots of pavement and concrete. Regardless of your own outdoor learning areas (or lack thereof) I encourage all educators to become advocates for outdoor learning. Countless pieces of research point to an outdoor learning component being a vital part of early learning. With that in mind, I believe that it's on all of us to share this with admin, staff, and families - to encourage a possible re-think of outdoor space, or even to explore for travel to inspiring outdoor spaces. While outdoor learning comes naturally on the Island, I have met many educators across our board who transforming traditional school playgrounds into creative and useful outdoor learning spaces. Just like our students need exposure to letters, numbers, social skills, and independence, we also owe it to them to provide chances for intentional outdoor exploration. As we enter a new calendar year, consider pledging to spending more time outside with your students in 2017. They'll thank you!
"Must we always teach our children with books? Let them look at the mountains and the stars up above. Let them look at the beauty of the waters and the trees and the flowers on earth. They will then begin to think, and to think is the beginning of a real education."
- David Polis