Nature play looks different than traditional playground play. It is inquiry-oriented, with kids asking questions and finding answers on their own or with the help of adults or other kids. They cooperate with each other and try new things all because the boundaries and spare parts are loose and can be manipulated. However, if the adults are not comfortable with their children exploring, experimenting, and potentially getting dirty in the process, then the children have notably more restricted behavior, similar to that seen on traditional playgrounds. Conversely, if the adults are comfortable and even modestly engaged with nature play, the children have a positive response and interact freely with the natural environment. When kids are given that freedom, their imaginations kick into gear, and the magic of nature happens.
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Our kids will get dirty in the outdoor classroom. They may get a sting or a splinter; they may risk falling…But it is the unstructured play that provides the most significant opportunities for kids to be curious, creative, spontaneous and collaborative.
There are so many benefits that come with spending time outdoors. From social skills to mental and physical health, we gain so much. From an environmental standpoint, allowing children this time at play is crucial for our future and the health of our planet. I’m sure you’re not blind to the many issues humans are causing to our home. Consider this: if we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, then let us allow them to love the Earth before we ask them to save it.
If you’re interested in learning more about why these kiddos need to be outside getting dirty, please visit any of the sites I listed below. I’m also linking a couple of my favorite Ted Talks if you’re less interested in reading.
Inquiry-Based Learning: According to the Center of Inspired Teaching, Inquiry-based teaching is a pedagogical approach that invites students to explore academic content by posing, investigating, and answering questions. Also known as problem-based teaching or simply as ‘inquiry,’ this approach puts students’ questions at the center of the curriculum, and places just as much value on the component skills of research as it does on knowledge and understanding of content. Learn more at https://inspiredteaching.org/wp-content/uploads/impact-research-briefs-inquiry-based-teaching.pdf