Why is a daily dose of nature so important for Early Head Start Children? What is an Outdoor Learning Environment? What are the best practices in creating an Outdoor Learning Environment?
These are just some of the topics that were discussed at a recent Outdoor Learning Environment Design Workshop hosted by Lancaster County First Steps. The workshop was at the Carol Ray Dowling Center at USC-L. The day consisted of learning about the design, planning and management of outdoor learning environments for early childhood education. Participates included Greater New Hope, Southside, and Buford Child Development Centers and other partners.
“This workshop has opened our eyes to a lot of things that our children have been missing.” said Herbert Parker of Greater New Hope Child Development Center.
In partnership with DHEC, DSS, and the Natural Learning Initiative of NC State University Design, Lancaster County First Steps Early Head Start Child Care Centers have begun the process of creating outdoor learning spaces for Lancaster’s youngest children. Lancaster is one of the early participants in this Natural Learning Initiative along with Florence, Spartanburg, Greenville and York County.
“Connecting young children to nature is crucial to growing healthy children. Child care providers have said that we are taking the children outside, but they are bored or we take the children outside, now what?” said Misty Pearson, DHEC Early Care & Education Consultant. The goal is to create a model outdoor play and learning environment for child care centers.
The purpose of the Natural Learning Initiative at NC State is to promote the importance of the natural environment in the daily experience of all children, through research, environmental design, education, and dissemination of information.
“This is a new way of thinking about the outdoors at child care centers and we are looking forward to creating places of harmony for children and teachers that will enhance learning.” says Lora Bryson, Executive Director of Lancaster County First Steps Partnership. Lora added, “We will be developing outdoor settings that will encourage children’s daily activity of exploration, discovery, and learning. This is exciting.”
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