There are many things to consider when setting the stage for outdoor play and learning. To begin with, consider whether the children will be experiencing structured or unstructured play. Play experiences with structure suggest that there are rules and instructions for children to follow such as what they would find in an organized soccer game. Unstructured experiences give children opportunities to make their own rules. These experiences provide opportunities for children to play freely. With the provision of place and time for unstructured play that is supervised, children have opportunities to engage in active and physical activity of their own design.
In Reggio Emilia, the word atelier is used to describe spaces to be used as a laboratory that gives value to the expressive potentials and creativity of children. Ateliers are often set up inside but when they are seen in a more abstract way as a place of research, invention and empathy, expressed by means of ‘100’ languages, they have incredible possibilities in the outdoor environment. If we view nature as an atelier, rich in resources, with potential to dig with our own hands and minds, the writing of the Reggio educators is resonant with connections. The atelier of nature offers everything that an indoor atelier provides and taking this frame of thought opens up possibilities of exploring the concept of ateliers as they relate to nature.
When early learning teachers engage in planning and programming for outdoor play, they consider the experience provided, the place where the experience takes place, the people involved as well as the time given for the experience. Think about the role of early learning teachers. Where are you during the experience? Consider your own position in relationship to the set-up of materials, the equipment provided or the features of the place where you are. If there is a gentle slope that the children love to run down, where will you be for optimum observation and supervision? How much time do you have in your schedule for the children to fully engage with the experience, the place and the people? View these slides to think more about experience, place, people and time.
Planning and Programming