Many teachers are reluctant and even fearful of outdoor learning centers or outdoor class instruction. While the outdoors can open more opportunities for misbehaving and minor scraps and bruises, teaching outdoors can be a wonderful experience with the right rules, guidelines, and preparation.
Every school that encourages outdoor exploration and has an outdoor classroom area should have a set of rules that the staff has agreed upon. Having a set of rules that is consistently used throughout the faculty and staff can make the outdoors safer and easier to manage by the teachers and students alike.
Materials should be checked on a regular basis for broken pieces that could cause possible injury. Large equipment such as swings, benches, climbing equipment, and tables should also be checked.
All small tools should be washed periodically with a Clorox solution to help prevent the spread of germs. Soap and water or a germ killing solution should be available to students.
A first aide kit should be nearby in order to quickly take care of minor injuries. The kit should include bandages, disinfectant, rubber gloves, and other medical supplies. The kit will prevent teachers from having to go back inside to care for minor cuts and scraps.
In order to help teachers feel more at ease in the outdoor area, schools also need rules for learning center use. I have listed some basic rules that can be applied to almost any learning center.
· All materials should be kept in the designated learning center. Do not let students take items from center to center. This helps prevent tools from being scattered across the play area and makes clean up easier. It is also safer.
· Children are responsible for their area. They are to stay in their area and work at the area until the time is up. They are not to leave the area until all materials are put back into place. Items are not to be left ‘in motion’. All items should be placed back into the containers or areas where they were when the children first came to the center.
· Because conflicts do and will arise. Make sure that children are aware of the consequences. Have an area for children who need to be removed from the centers for a time out.
Once students are aware of the expectations for outdoor learning centers, things usually run very smoothly. Remember to be consistent about rules and expectations. And most of all- have fun!