One of the benefits of a cooperative is that you can utilize the strengths and backgrounds of the membership to make the school better: from facilities upkeep to the classroom experience. We have such a variety of backgrounds and occupations at our school! We are fortunate that some can be put to use when we need them. This year, we wanted to enrich the kids’ experiences in our “Big Yard.” Luckily, we have a former preschool teacher who we were able to give the job of being in a teacher support position as our Outdoor Curriculum Coordinator. This is Sara’s first year at the Co-op and she is working with our teachers and their goals to create spaces and opportunities we didn’t have last year. Sara writes about her position, passion, and what’s been done and what’s to come for our beloved “Big Yard”:
Outdoor play is an essential element for children’s growth and development. By allowing large blocks of time for children to play outside, we are giving them opportunities for physical, cognitive, and socio-emotional development. Being outside also gives children the chance to enjoy the sights and sounds of the natural world around them.
I was given the job of Outdoor Curriculum Coordinator this year at the Co-Op and it has turned out to be a wonderful experience! Working with the teachers, we come up with ideas that they would like to see in the outdoor areas, and I find ways to implement them.
Here are a few of the outdoor activities we have done this year so far, and some to come in the future…
1. Paint-roller painting on the outdoor wall easels
The children had access to paint rollers, paint, and butcher paper to paint freely. Not only does this type of activity develop creativity, but also both fine and gross motor skills.
2. Planting grass seed and lima beans
The children and teachers used soil, lima beans or grass seed, and cups for planting. We chose to use clear plastic cups so that the children could see the progress of their plant from beginning to end.
3. Mud Kitchen
I really enjoyed making the mud kitchen out of items found in my garage and kitchen. I also made use of some milk crates and shelving found at the Co-Op. The children absolutely LOVED the mud kitchen area, and I enjoyed peeking out every now and then to see them fully engaged in their play. This provided so many opportunities for learning such as problem solving skills, creative expression, and cooperative play.
4. Tiny Town
This was another one of the projects that I truly loved. Using small and large bricks and patio pavers, I built an area similar to an outdoor block area. I added some ramps made of poplar wood boards and utilized the old tires we found in the yard at the Co-Op. A wooden train track set and trains, along with cars, trucks, and construction vehicles helped round out our Tiny Town. During the holiday season, I was able to collect tree cookies and branches from local Christmas tree lots to enhance the children’s play. Over winter break, after many days of re-chalking the “road” bricks, I added some embellishments to the area with paint to sustain against the elements a bit better. I see children using this area in so many different ways, and I was thrilled to see how much they enjoyed it.
Over the course of the next few months we have some exciting projects planned to provide more opportunities for engaging the children in outdoor play. Painting on the outdoor easels with brooms and buckets of paint, exploring ice and water, an outdoor game area, and rock painting are just a few of the things we have in mind. Outdoor play provides a rich and unique experience for learning, and we are very lucky that the Co-Op offers us such a great space for our children to explore and discover.