One of the most essential skills and knowledge that early learning teachers require is understanding how children learn and how environments can support or inhibit learning. Early learning teachers generally base their practice on their perspectives of how children learn. Outdoor programming, including the materials, ways in which the program is facilitated, and options provided to and for the children reflects the views of early learning teachers.
Contemporary and historical research continues to identify that children learn best through a variety of play experiences. Children are thinkers and doers (Dietze & Kashin, 2015). Ideally, children are in environments that support them in working toward constructing strategies to solve problems, think about new ways of tackling an experience, and reflect on their failures. There are many important environmental characteristics that children require in their outdoor environments as ultimate conditions for learning.
|Children given opportunities to act upon their ideas and inventing their play options results in||Their minds being engaged. This increases problem solving and the desire to try new actions and experiences.|
|Children having time, space and opportunities to ‘think through’ their outdoor play experiences results in||Them sorting out ways in which they can achieve their experience and extend their learning to more complicated processes.|
|Children require a combination of new and familiar materials and experiences that spark their curiosity as this results in||Them thinking about the same problem or challenge in multiple ways. The newer the outdoor experience for children, the more they will engage in different ways of thinking (Siegler, 2005).|
|Children benefit from outdoor play and learning when they are in environments that encourage them to initiate their play and have input into the materials and play episode that they wish to embark on as this results in||Them learning about multiple opportunities to work with the materials and build upon their experience and extend their learning to more complicated processes.|
|Children benefit in being in outdoor environments where they have access to loose parts or intelligent materials because||Loose parts spark their imaginative and creative play while intelligent materials create a sense of wonder that leads them to explore, think, and incorporate new thoughts, ideas and actions into the outdoor experiences.|
As you will explore in the upcoming module on loose parts, the more open-ended the materials in the outdoor play space, the more opportunity for children to engage in unique outdoor play experiences. The term “loose parts” was coined by architect Simon Nicholson (1971). To be classified as a loose part, the materials are movable, can be redesigned, put together and taken apart in a variety of ways. Loose parts may be either natural or synthetic materials or objects.
Nicholson believed that children who have loose parts in their environment are empowered to think, design, create and engage in experiential learning. When children use loose parts, they have more options to experience and use flexible and divergent thinking. Such thinking patterns contribute to children gaining success in their outdoor play, which in turn, contributes to their positive dispositions about outdoor play.
The term intelligent materials is often used in the context of loose parts. We think of intelligent materials as those that are able to adapt to the environment by altering their properties. Think of ice and water as intelligent materials. Then think about how the various forms of water and ice trigger curiosity of children, while adding incredible opportunities for changing outdoor play options and experiences.
Examine the PowerPoint of loose parts and intelligent materials for outdoor play.course3-lesson2-topic3-powerpoint1-loose-parts-intelligent-materials
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