Friday, May 18, 2012

The Outdoor Individual Learning Station

Preparing the outdoor learning stations is a lot of fun because there are so many possibilities.  My objective for this post if for the teacher to get an idea of what an outdoor station can look like.  Remember that young children learn very well outside and when outside, they learn best through play rather than through an organized lesson.  
This child's apron is made of old Kanga fabrics

When children learn outside, it is OK for them to get wet, muddy and dirty.  In a traditional school setting, it is important for the child to keep a clean uniform but true learning is sometimes messy so we will put that notion aside for a while.  When learning outdoors, children should wear an apron and when playing with water or dirt, maybe we should consider allowing the kids to simply wear their swimming costume.  I know, I know, it sounds very daring but I think there will be less clean up if the child is taught how to dry up, and how to hang up her wet swimming costume after they are done playing.

The teacher must prepare the outdoor learning station each day ( we will talk about Teacher Helpers and The Buddy System in later posts).  Just like in the classroom, the outdoor learning stations should be age appropriate, safe and engaging.  It should encourage the child to play and invent games as they go.

Here is a really fun sample outdoor learning station:

Sink the Boat

For the Sink the Boat learning station, you will need:

Sink the Boat Learning Station

  1. a medium plastic bucket or bowl
  2. two small bowls (one empty and one with rocks)
  3. ten garden rocks (since the child would have learned how to count to 10)
  4. one small towel -- for drying 
  5. a light tray to carry all the materials
  6. water to fill the bowl
First the child is taught to carefully place the drying towel to the side for when he is finished playing.  Then he is taught to dry all the items (tray, bowls and rocks) and return them in the same condition and position as in the picture.

After the child learns how to return these learning materials to the same condition by themselves then they are ready to play/learn (this will be covered in the Etiquette Lessons that we will prepare for the students)
Float the 'Boat' in the Water
First the teacher, or the teacher's helper or buddy, fill up the medium bowl with water.  Then the child floats one of the small bowls "or boat" in the water.  

Then the teacher asks, "how many rocks do you need to sink the boat?".  The child can guess how many. This is pretty fun because if there are more than one child doing this activity, the game quickly becomes pretty hysterical.

One the child has registered his guess, he can begin placing rocks from the rock bowl into the floating bowl while counting them.

How many rocks does it take to sink the boat?
After the boat sinks, the child will want to do this again, again and again.  Soon, he will want to see how many rocks he can try to fit in the boat before it sinks. Children will often begin to find other items in the garden that they can put in the floating bowl, "how many sticks does it take to sink the boat?" or "How many leaves?", etc. If two children are at this same learning station together, it is also fun to float the two small bowls and see whose boat stays afloat longer.  

This activity will slowly progress into splashing, swirling the water, sinking the boat by tossing the rocks into the boat rather than carefully placing it in the boat.  The water will fill up with mud, leaves, grass, bugs and many interesting things that the child will try to float and sink

Without even know it, the child has just learned the scientific process.  Scientists begin an experiment by asking a question "What? or How? or Why?" and then they do experiments until they get the answer they need.  In this activity, the student will practice counting to 10 but also learn advanced scientific concepts such as probability, prediction and surface tension.  

To make the activity more challenging as the child is able to write numbers, this learning station can also include a log or chart so that the child can log his results.  We can also introduce boats of different size surfaces to really delve into the concept of surface tension.

After the student is finished with this activity, he is fully expected to pour out the water (maybe even water the plants with it) dry the bowls, the tray and his hands with the towel and put the learning station back where he found it.

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