The health, educational and developmental benefits of open-air learning have been prompting early years classrooms to move outdoors for a number of years. And now the need for outdoor learning spaces is pressing more than ever as a preventative health measure in the midst of a pandemic. But many schools are challenged by a lack of naturalized spaces and instead are surrounded by an abundance of paved playground and parking space.
Here are three quick and flexible ways to gain softened outdoor classroom space without resorting to jackhammers or bulldozers.
To see all the options for enhancing outdoor learning, explore our entire Outdoor Classroom Collection
1) Landscape with Artificial Turf
New Tufted Grass Carpets can transform tarmac and concrete into soft surfaces.
Padded and thick, the grass blades are specifically engineered to resist matting and crushing and are perfect for sitting. Durable, they are easily sanitized with soap and rinsing with a hose. They come in a variety of fun shapes and sizes for breaking-up homogenous spaces and defining learning areas. There are also sets of twelve 18” round mats that are perfect for individual use, indoors or out.
2) Sand, Earth, Rocks -- Box it up!
For access to earth, mulch, sand or other natural materials without breaking up tarmac or building from scratch -- box it up! Trays, garden boxes or even a standalone structure like our new covered sandbox, can be filled with natural materials to engage children in STEM exploration and open ended play: mixing mud, hunting for worms, and bugs or tending plants.
The new corner garden box, made of naturally Canadian weather resistant red cedar, is deep enough to grow flowers and vegetables, enlivening a dead corner. Outdoor sand trays with lids made of eucalyptus wood can transport rocks, leaves and other natural loose parts, indoors and out.
While the canopy on the covered sandbox protects children from the elements - an ideal solution for areas lacking shade. Add sand, mulch or Tufted Grass carpets and use for dramatic play, story telling and more.
3) “The Ground is LAVA!” Ramps, bridges and steps
Red cedar containers and furnishings naturalize an Ontario classroom
Outfitting your outdoor classroom with naturally weather resistant wood ramps bridges, planks and steps provokes not only gross motor physical activity but dramatic play too. Elevating even a little bit will provoke imaginations to run wild: logs and planks protect from burning grounds overrun with lava, and the bridge transports over rapids or a gorge of dizzying heights.
Obstacles build balance and coordination creating risk and challenge that can be scaled appropriately to age or ability.
Plus deploying wood based outdoor furnishings naturalizes a space even if you don’t have a lot of trees.
Flexible and open-ended, because these elements aren’t fixed your outdoor learning areas can grow and change with your needs setting them up in a variety of fun creative ways with the input of your students. With wood outdoor furnishings you are not only softening a hard space but are able to constantly reinvent your outdoor classroom to match your educational goals.