Application of Theory to Practice

Topic Progress:

For the educators in Reggio Emilia, teaching and learning becomes an art that is expressed through the use of progettazione, project curriculum constructed with pedagogical documentation (Rinaldi, 1998). Projected curriculum may involve projects but this term is not interchangeable with “project curriculum”. The use of projects to engage children is part of the 80-year progressive tradition of education (Spodek & Saracho, 2003). First inspired by the ideas of John Dewey and advocated by William H. Kilpatrick, the term was used to describe the project approach method. Under the assumption that children learn best when their interest is fully engaged and centred, the project method was used in Dewey’s Laboratory School at the University of Chicago at the beginning of the 20th century (Tanner, 1997).


The Project Approach “refers to a way of teaching and learning as well as to the content of what is taught and learned” (Katz & Chard, 1989, p. 3). It is a set of teaching strategies, which enable teachers to guide children through in-depth studies of real world topics. Children are instrumental in deciding the topics, becoming the experts, and sharing accountability of learning with adults (Katz & Chard, 2000). The investigation is undertaken by a small group of children within a class, sometimes by a whole class, and occasionally by an individual child (Katz & Chard, 2000).

How do you currently plan for children’s outdoor experiences? How would you describe what you do? Can you think of ways that you might disrupt the status quo? Use the comment box below to share your thoughts with others.

How many times did the words child-led or child-directed come up in the comments in the discussion? Sometimes these words are juxtaposed with words such as teacher-led or teacher-directed. Often you will see the word “versus” situated between these words such as child-led versus teacher-led and child-directed versus teacher-directed. Is your pedagogical and curriculum approach always one or the other? What would happen in your settings if children were in complete control of the direction of the curriculum? What would happen if you only followed their lead? Perhaps these terms represent a false dichotomy? Click on the word below to find out what this means.

False Dichotomy

A False Dichotomy is a dichotomy that is not jointly exhaustive (there are other alternatives), or that is not mutually exclusive (the alternatives overlap).

Rather than viewing the ideas of teacher- versus child-led/directed as a dichotomy, it could be seen as a continuum. By clicking on the word, you will see how it is fundamentally different than a dichotomy.

A continuum is a continuous sequence in which adjacent elements are not perceptibly different from each other, although the extremes are quite distinct.

Seeing these terms as in opposition of each other may lead some early learning teachers to believe that they have to choose one or the other, that one is better than the other. Once they choose they defend their position and perhaps pronounce judgment on those who are not on their side. Instead, if we use continuum thinking there will be an understanding that curriculum and pedagogy require a balanced approach. Either/or thinking highlights differences, which can lead to great dialogues with like-minded colleagues but sometimes you can find yourself in conversation with someone who thinks differently. If we can all find ourselves along the continuum, maybe even meet in the middle as a place to dialogue from common ground, perhaps we can start to see different perspectives? A continuum highlights our commonalities and is better at depicting a complex topic. It can bring attention to thinking about our choices and actions and where they may be situated along the continuum on any given day.


  1. Barb Keller

    I observe what children are interested in. Then I enhance the area so that the children can continue learning.

  2. Christine Norman

    The way I plan for children’s outdoor experiences is by observing what they children are playing with and talking about. The observations the children make about certain changes to the environment as well as how the play evolves. I also come across new and interesting objects and add them into the environment. By watching how the children interact with the materials gives me ideas for planning. Planning also happens around seasons as the children notice the changes happening around them. The children and I will also have discussions about what kind of materials to add to the environment.

  3. Cindy Spencer

    Planning for outdoor play depend s on what the children are interested in, and we place items in the outdoor play space going off of their interests.

  4. Jasmine Park

    My planning is based on children’s interests and child-led activities most of the times. Sometimes, I participate in the activities as a co-learner and a co-researcher because I am also one of the important part of children’s learning. In stead of deciding everything by myself, I always look for children’s interest and engagement to provide meaningful learning experiences.

  5. Jennifer Yarmish

    I have found that finding a balance between the two (child led vs. teacher led) is not something that comes easy. We really have to be continually invested in our programs to keep from becoming comfortable with one or the other…especially when not all of the staff have the same style of teaching.
    I very much enjoy pedagogical documentation indoors and out but I know that my area of weakness is in complete follow through, so that can make it challenging to help both teachers and staff get the full experience out of a project. I appreciate working as a group because we can help balance each other by taking the baton when another person runs low on energy.

  6. Nikki Littlechild

    I think we could benefit from some teacher led activity outdoors. Right now it’s child led however being outside offers great opportunity for art, dramatic play, science and all kinds of play that is accessible when inside. We just have to think outside the box, literally, and see how we can still do all the things outside. I find when having more than one educator involved in the planning process, the more ideas sand excitement generate.

  7. Hilary Geddes

    i believe that it is extremely important to have a consistent balance in outdoor play of child led spontaneous play and teacher lead more academic curriculum. There are so many opputunirities to have curriculum carried outdoor and this type of experience enriches the children’s view of this type of wok/play.

  8. Carrie Maclellan 

    I think currently outdoor play is definitely child led. I think there could be more teacher led or teacher directed activities that enhance the learning process. I think its important to bring some of those curriculum pieces outdoors, Outside is not just for gross motor development which I believe to be a pretty common myth.

  9. Heather Diewert

    When planning for Outside Play, ii is often dependant on the place, environment, weather and direction of the children.
    If we take a walking trip, a wagon will be taken with a variety of items that can be utilized for say an open field, or waterpark.
    For the centre, we will place items outside pertaining to the interests of the children at the time; such as dinosaurs, and we will set-up learning scenarios to enhance the interest and learning.
    I would describe my style as child- directed with teacher facilitation, and I like to choose opportunities of teaching.
    I believe that often I disrupt the status quo by my belief that children are more capable than we give them credit for, and will allow children to take risks and make mistakes. I don’t use the term be careful, but prefer to use terms such as, think about where your feet will go; remember that you need space when throwing rocks into the water etc.

  10. Rachael Ewan

    Outdoor play is very child led. Often the educators will provide the materials based on observations of the children. Some educators do not see outdoor play as valuable and use it as a time to take a break. We move things around the yard to disrupt the status quo and provide new materials. From what I have learned I now thing adding documentation to the outdoor play area can be useful.

  11. Shirley Robinson

    Oh for us my co-worker, suggested we start asking the children what they we would like and at circle time we would discuss it with the children, which awesome

  12. Heather Brekkaas

    I find that in elementary school any outdoor activities (beyond recess and lunch) are almost completely teacher led. The students get very little say in what they are doing and are expected to all follow the exact same routine. It makes it easy for the teacher to have control, but takes away the students chance to explore or take risks.

  13. Anna Mary McKenney

    Planning consists of observing the children’s interests and skills and building on the engagement they already have. We set out loose parts or move areas to suit their needs and the environment

  14. Rachelle Gregoire

    The kids usually take the lead outside. We might bring out specific things to play or investigate with, but chances their uses will morph into something else. This can be frustrating if you as a teacher are set on the items being used appropriately for their original use.

  15. Katarina Ninkovic

    Almost all of our outdoor play is child led! Often times children will ask to go to another park or on a Walk that’s when I asked all the other children and i give them usually a 10 minute warning that we are leaving! Also i often record and take lots of pictures of children play and plan their experiences for the next day,or the next week depending how much research i need to collect!

  16. Krista Ambrose

    I plan for children’s outdoor experiences by preparing the area. I add differently loose parts. Then the staff and I observe to see what the children are interested in. As staff we then add to the play by helping them or by adding more items to the area. I am finding that staff I work with are not into loose parts. I am trying to add loose parts and hopefully, the other staff will accept and assist the children in the new learning environment.

  17. Dana Wilson

    How do you currently plan for children’s outdoor experiences? How would you describe what you do? Can you think of ways that you might disrupt the status quo?

    I currently plan for children’s outdoor experiences in a few different ways. My preference is to have very child-led outdoor experiences. However I tend to observe the children and provide materials/subjects that I have seen they have an interest in, therefore using emergent curriculum mostly. I do see the worth in some themes, but I prefer to let the children show me what (themes) they are interested in. Some of my co-workers really like the idea of themes, and I try to see what about the theme the children seem interested in and then I follow their lead to loosely plan some experiences.

  18. Amanda Funk

    Planning is reflexive of environment, interest and availability. Through play , environmental interactions and curiosity planning emerges.

  19. Jody Anderson

    How do you currently plan for children’s outdoor experiences? How would you describe what you do? Can you think of ways that you might disrupt the status quo?
    We definitely spend more time intentionally planning for our indoor activities than we do for our outdoor experiences. When we go outside we have a general idea of where we are going and the choices the children will have once they get there. The children usually decide what they do once they are in that space. When the children make discoveries we ask a lot of questions and ask the children what they know about what they found. Conversations between children are often extended while they discuss what they know with each other.
    To disrupt the status quo we should be going much deeper into our planning intentional activities that are closely correlated with the childrens interests and learning needs. We need to get better at extending the learning over a period of days and really delving deeper into theose discoveries for more than one day.

  20. Bonnie Willson

    We try to plan our outdoor activities to correspond with our indoor activities. We follow the children’s lead and add to the interests every chance we get. Something that could challenge the status quo is planning more of our outdoor activities based on their outdoor interests as opposed to starting with indoor interests and just carrying them outside.

  21. Maria Agustin

    In the daycare I work with, we do planning activities. We bring some materials and toys for their outdoor play. We planned the activities based on their interests,

  22. Prabhulata Immaraju

    We take children on nature walks n engage in the various corners of our yard where we provide various opportunities, we follow the lead of the children’s interests and find ways in which we can support it, scaffold it. But I see how if there is an intentionality in planning the outdoors experience n the children’s learning we could do much more. It would definitely be very interesting to disrupt the status quo by planning the interests of the children by digging deeper into it and finding ways of challenging n supporting their inquiry.

  23. Angel Huang

    How do you currently plan for children’s outdoor experiences? How would you describe what you do? Can you think of ways that you might disrupt the status quo? Use the comment box below to share your thoughts with others.
    When we are outdoor with the children, usually we let them decide what to do, as it is a play base and free play centre. Most of the time we let the children decide what they want to do indoor or outdoor. for me to disrupt the status quo is maybe joining Reggio and Montessori together. I believe children can learn through play and yet while they play they can be getting ready for kindergarten by doing some structure plans.

  24. Grace Smith

    For the school age children, when we plan it is kind of broad and flexible. Since the children are often here for a few hours after school, we spend most of our time outdoors.

  25. Tammy

    When we plan for outdoor experiences we currently more or less just go with the flow with what the children would like to do and where they would like to play. Some educators take a more structured approach and tend to preplan their activities with the children and then as the projects or activities happen they will evolve and change. I think play would be disrupted if the educators discouraged free choice, however they could easily guide the play and expand the children’s experiences depending on the materials that were offered.

  26. Betty-Ann Ryz

    My thoughts are what if, there was a curriculum created to encompass both child-led and adult-led. Intergenerationaly working together to create an engaging emergent learning environment for both the children and the teachers. Yes children should have a big say in what they learn but also need to keep in mind that there are specific skills children should have in their development toolkit for kindergarten readiness. The education system is not play based where academic achievement is still a priority. So I believe an educator who understands all the required and various type of developmental milestones that needs to be acquired for children before the age of 5, can creatively develop a curriculum that can appease both the children’s and teacher’s needs.

  27. Amanda Christison

    I know a goal for myself as an educator is to make our outdoors experience just as important as the work we put into the indoors. Part of achieving this goal has been all of the knowledge I have gained from this course that I am excited to put forth into my practice. Currently, it’s emergent curriculum and we tend to follow the children’s lead. We do go outside a lot but I know the planning can be more intentional and meaningful. I do like the idea of having an outdoor pedagogical documentation board that the children and their families can visit and revisit. I think a big part of disrupting the status quo is for all of the educators to get out of their comfort zone when outdoors. They need to be prepared for all weather as well as not worry so much about scheduling and routine – if there is great learning going on outdoors, don’t run inside because it’s lunch time etc. That extra time could make all the difference between a learning experience and a great pedagogical documentation.

  28. Silvia Martínez

    I would like to try and incorporate an emergent curriculum in my dayhome since we do not have one yet. I would also like to start making more activities for certain holidays around the world and incorporate their heritage and if able religion.

  29. Nicole Robinson

    How do you currently plan for children’s outdoor experiences? How would you describe what you do? Can you think of ways that you might disrupt the status quo?

    I plan for children’s outdoor experiences by observing the children and discovering what interests or schema they are working on. I then plan activities based on those. However, it has been difficult lately to get everything done so I need to work on it harder and get back to where I was several months ago.

  30. Erin Lihou

    I would love to incorporate more child-led days where they can have more opportunities to be the leader in our play and encourage them to lead the play for the class

  31. Annette Casey

    I’m with school age children this summer hopefully I can put it a lot of wat we’ve learned he to practice. We did something’s in previous years but not to this extent.

  32. Amanda N

    At the centre where I work, we are still learning how to build a curriculum with young children. So usually, when we are setting up, we are more likely to put outdoors objects that children demonstrate an interest in.

  33. Lucie Pendergraff

    We follow emergent curriculum but they way it looks is we see an interest from the children’s play so we plan a week of activities centered around that interest. Since starting this course, I have been trying a new method of emergent where it is just day to day. I either find new ways each day to keep the interest alive, or we move to something else they are into.

  34. Joanne Falk

    In our center there is not a lot of emergent curriculum that happens, most of my co-workers, myself included are not familiar with emergent curriculum, but I’m hoping when I complete this module, I will be familiar with it and be able to use it at my daycare as well as teach my co-workers what it is.

  35. Kimberley Thompson

    We curriculum but do not reinforce it. I think emergent is the way to go base it off of what the children are interested in let the children lead. I also like the idea of a emergent spider web where you write in the middle the topic the shildren are interested in than write down each thing that branches out from that topic.

  36. Charlene Durrant

    Our outdoor planning consists of taking indoor toys outside. As well as activities. After observing what the children are interested in, we may take something else out related to their interest %

  37. Shannon Stewart

    As a coach I find myself challenging educators to think about outdoor play deeply, just as they would in their indoor environments. This is challenging for some but I believe many are taking up the challenge and trying to see outdoor play as more than just a time to supervise from afar.

  38. Jessica Garner

    In the programs I work with, planning for outdoor play usually involves bringing particular toys or materials into the outdoor environment, or leading children in a planned game or activity. These are typically not related to children’s interests, or are connected to a theme or interest being explored in children’s indoor play (for example, if the children are exploring animals indoors, the educators might invite children to try doing different animals walks outdoors). To disrupt the status quo, I would like to challenge educators to closely observe and look for children’s interests and inquiries evident in their outdoor play.

  39. Nikki Meyer

    Currently, many of the programs I work with plan for activities outdoors in a very broad sense. They feel that putting “walk” on their daily plan is sufficient. I enjoy challenging their thinking and have them reflect on ways to make outdoor play an extension of indoors and more meaningful.

  40. Alison Rinas

    i am finding the outdoor play/classroom trends are an interest for the program that I am coaching with. They are wanting to extend the learning and ideas of children into the outdoor environments encouraging them to be outside for longer periods of time and adding more materials to the outdoor environment to allow for more emergent planning practices.

  41. Kathryn Armstrong

    Our outdoor planning depends on what we have available at the site and what we are able to transport to the site. We try to take into account ages and interests of the children. The interesting part is what the child do with what we bring. Sometimes they go in a completely different direction that we had assumed.

  42. Andrea Preissl

    I look at what the children are interested in, and plan accordingly. I look at what they are doing and what the underlying interest is. Is it pushing things, scooping and pouring, climbing, or anything else. I then bring out/ set up different provocations related to their interest. I watch and see how they respond and either leave them to it, or change it if needed. This can happen on a daily or weekly basis

  43. Svetlana Babikova

    I believe children like being outdoor. We can do most of the indoor activities outdoor. For example, we like to do arts and crafts outdoor, constructive play using natural materials and loose parts, sensory play (water, mud, sand, etc.), dramatic play (build a car using loose parts materials, or mud kitchen), math and science (explore seasonal changes), literacy (letter’s scavenger hunt in the forest). All the activities can be planned based on emergent curriculum, children’s interests, and needs.

  44. Kamaldeep Sidhu

    We plan some outdoor activities,but I think we need more planning for outdoor,because summer is here.but I will definitely plan to get more information through this course.

  45. Caroline Driedger

    How do you currently plan for children’s outdoor experiences? How would you describe what you do? Can you think of ways that you might disrupt the status quo? Use the comment box below to share your thoughts with others.
    Currently planning for outdoor time is about space , how to set it up e, ensuring we have mud and supplies,water. Due to covid our yard has been cut in half so the staff are working tirelessly to re create an outdoor experience as opposed too planned activities all the time. We are using emergent curriculum more as we have more new ece’s that are trained this way and are teaching the older ones in our center. To disrupt the status quo i have added natural materials to the area and disrupted the thought process of the teachers the children’s curiosity was peeked and since i have added wood logs & rope I have now asked the team to observe and see what else they might add ans scaffold it.

  46. Nadira Ramnauth

    I observe and document what the children show interest in doing. I offer lots of loose parts, paint, glue, paper, and other materials to the children. I let the children use their imagination to be creative. Last week I offered tree barks to the children which they used to create bugs. The painted the tree barks and glued loose parts on it and they asked me for googly eyes to use for the bug’s eyes. It is nice to see how each child is creative in their own way.

  47. Lucie Theroret

    We mostly do spontaneous planning for outside play and it does work really good i have to say that my coworker and me get along really good most of the time when one of us trow a new idea we all go for it we really have a good team

  48. Kathy Barnhart

    In my work right now, I am frequently disrupting the status quo by introducing new ways to think about how the educators I am coaching are planning their outdoor activities. I have many new ideas shaping up now as a result of this course so for instance I would be challenging the educators to think about taking an interest of a child and provoking the children to explore these ideas more deeply using a project approach. Perhaps the children’s interest in bugs might transform into a project where the children create a housing project for their bugs!

  49. Janice Duncan

    How do you currently plan for children’s outdoor experiences? How would you describe what you do? Can you think of ways that you might disrupt the status quo?
    I use a variety of approaches for planning children’s outdoor experiences, I consider the interests/needs of the children and mine as well. For example if the children are engaged in looking for insects, I will look for books on bugs to have both indoors and outdoors, I will spend time exploring bugs with the children, provide clipboards to take outside for the children to draw, provide magnifying bug boxes. I love birds so I share my passion by introducing materials and encouraging children to look for birds outside, some children are interested some are not. I have engaged in short term projects with children such as the butterfly project. I have an eclectic approach.

  50. Alphonsine Hategekimana

    How do you currently plan the children’s outdoor experiences?

    We often plan both indoor and outdoor activities. WE have some materials that are used every day.
    We use the games that are consistent with the planned activities, but less the loose parts. Since the daycare is large. Each educator plans their activities according to their choices and the children’s abilities.
    On my side, I like more outdoor activities like working around the daycare and neighbourhood and I like to have some materials available so that the children can have fun and make choices.

  51. Deborah Fehr

    How do you currently plan for children’s outdoor experiences? How would you describe what you do? Can you think of ways that you might disrupt the status quo?

    Generally I observe centres bringing out “toys” to play with from the indoor space. Of course there are always exceptions, however, I would say that most centres would benefit from a more intentional approach to outdoor play. I have not seen it as a large part of the planning process being for outdoors, but rather as an addon to indoor planning. Weather is often an excuse for staying indoors.

    As a coach, I can ask more questions about planning and outdoor space and I can encourage the cognitive dissonance that is bound to show up.

  52. Heather Howard

    I am now starting to see more programs think about the outdoors as an extension of the indoors and planning is taking on new meaning. I see many programs experimenting with how to plan outdoors, what does that look like and what could it look like? Letting go of themes is a huge milestone for some as that is all they knew. It is definitely a process as educators co-learn, co-research and co-imagine the possibilities alongside their co-educators and the children.

  53. Laura Mcintosh

    When I am planning for outdoor time I think about what the group of children I work with are showing interest in and go from there. I think planning keeping in mind their interests leaves lots of room for learning opportunities.

  54. Patricia Lynch-Staunton

    How do you currently plan for children’s outdoor experiences? How would you describe what you do? Can you think of ways that you might disrupt the status quo?
    I currently plan in a loose way. What I think might be an avenue for exploration often changes as the children show me where their explorations are going. I am constantly in a cycle of observing, wondering and thinking about what experiences, materials, questions and participation would enhance the children’s curiosity. Therefore, I guess I disrupt the staus quo on an on-going basis as the emergent nature of planning is mostly about balancing pedagogy with curriculum. How to teach (or rather think) about something takes me on a journey of what to teach (or think about). In this way, I stay intentional about how, why and what.

  55. Stephanie Vieira

    I don’t really do much outdoor activities that I hope I’d would. We go outdoors a lot but need to catch up on my outdoors activities.

  56. Lorraine Kok

    I plan some outdoor activities but I would say I could do more especially gain more information through this course.

  57. Jaclyn Geiger

    Bringing play based, place based and outdoor learning will not be of question in my classroom as I hope it will just become part of the routine of learning together. I love learning about all the different perspectives and research (although some may be dry) most is engaging as the topic is just that. I like the idea of implementing what works and resonates as I feel that is what will be the hope for the learners to achieves through interest, inquiry and play. Teacher modelling of this is important too as we continue to learn and add new ideas to our basket of tools.

  58. Nicole Morrell

    Planning for children’s outdoor experiences is the same as planning for indoors. We still thrive to meet developmental milestones, we still try to frame activities and follow their lead, we still work to ensure that we are switching materials out to keep it engaging.

  59. Ai Paul

    I believe there are lots of ordinary moments happening in outdoor with children; however, we are too busy “supervising” children or “catching up” with co-workers, instead of paying close attentions to what children are experiencing. It might be a tiny moment, like a child finds a worm on the ground. We could pick up the child’s wonder to extend the interests from there.

  60. Randi Robertson

    i think that when i become an elementary school teacher i will for sure plan activities for outdoor play time, of course allowing some free time as well but i will definatley have plans for activities out doors that relate to what we are learning.

  61. Christine Villeneuve

    We think of the outdoors as an extension of the indoor space. Educators plan for inviting experiences based on children’s current interests. Scaffolding occurs as educators co-learn alongside children.

  62. Carli Olson

    I do have to agree, I think I am lacking some outdoor planning. We go outside LOTS but often don’t really have a plan. We share one of our playgrounds with a separate preschool program so sometimes I feel like that is our excuse!

  63. Romy Ralph

    We change our outdoor environment daily because we are in a setting where it must be put away. I do think we plan for what we have observed outside but it definitely can be explored to a different level.

  64. Heidi Dueck

    I am grateful to be in a Nature based Centre, we spend at least 50% of the time outside.

  65. Daniela Rodriguez

    As a future teacher, I believe outdoor play is a great resources for teachers to get out of the comfort zone and try new alternatives for teaching.

  66. Kim Hoey

    To be honest…… outdoor planning is greatly lacking for me. I do plan maybe 2x week….. a walk to the park or a walk around the community. I will be, after taking this course, and with spring upon us now….planning for outdoor learning activities. And things more nature oriented.

  67. Susanne Saunders

    I change my outdoor setting with different materials each week. I have the regular materials out all the time but add other materials. I let the children choose. One day i put out umbrellas and watering cans. the children loved watering each other.

  68. Laurie Millions

    I tend to plan emergent curriculum for the preschool children I work with when I can. I do plan some theme-based activities and crafts when a certain holiday comes up like (Mothers day or Easter).
    The emergent curriculum tends to take more time to plan so other staff are not always on board with document the children to get some ideas for the children.

  69. Taylor Aichelberger

    Planning for children’s outdoor experiences depends heavily on the environment in which I am doing it. In the childcare/early childhood setting, planning is more intuitive and the curriculum tends to be more emergent. As a student teacher, planning is very emphasized and formalized which can easily hinder the process of an emergent curriculum. In my practice, I plan to disrupt the status quo by implementing an emergent curriculum in my future classroom, one where play-based and inquiry learning are central.

  70. Taylor Aichelberger

    Planning for children’s outdoor experiences depends heavily on the environment in which I am doing it. In the childcare/early childhood setting, planning is more intuitive and the curriculum tends to be more emergent. As a student teacher, planning is very emphasized and formalized which can easily hinder the process of an emergent curriculum. In my practice, I plan to disrupt the status quo by implementing an emergency curriculum in my future classroom, one where play-based and inquiry learning are central.