By: Kasey Kile
I absolutely adore summertime. It is by far my favorite season. The green grass, blue skies, the smell of a thunderstorm, and the emerging of all the bugs and animals make my inquisitive nature come to life. I’m sure growing up on a farm is one of the main reasons this is my favorite time of year. As a child, summers were spent:
- Riding horses through pastures
- Long summer nights through harvest
- Cooking for meals to take to the fields with my great aunt
- Hunting for tadpoles
- Running through irrigation systems
- Assisting with the family garden
As a classroom teacher, I brought my love for animals, insects, and growing materials into the environment to explore with children. During the summer, all programs tend to have a more relaxed environment. There are water days, extended time outdoors, and a new curiosity with the change in weather. The sweet summer months are some that I thoroughly enjoy for this reason.
When thinking of outdoor engagement or investigation, I always think about what materials and opportunities are available to extend children’s learning or even enhance their thinking about existing materials. Here are a few simple ideas:
1. Take existing materials outside.
Some materials are easy to take outside and can endure outdoor weather, whereas others are solely meant for indoors. It is important to know what materials need extra attention when using them outdoors so they do not get left out and ruined. Our partner program, ieDiscoveries, took their rubber and outdoor ramps with tubes and tunnels to a nearby park. The children chose to build their ramp system using the picnic tables instead of building on the grass. This brought lots of connection challenges, as well as, discussions about the steep incline(s).
2. Exploring insects, worms, and other outdoor creatures.
Allowing children to step back to observe and document is one way to increase their inquiry skills. Documentation can be done by drawings, photographs, and/or videos. Additionally, consider magnifying materials to get a closer look or treasure tubes to observe items closer for those children that may not want to touch something.
3. Create a classroom or program garden.
Children love to help when given the opportunity. When given the right materials, like child-size garden tools, they are able to be successful in their work. In my experience, children that participate in growing vegetables and fruits are more likely to try them during mealtime, as well.
4. Mud Kitchens.
I love mud kitchens, especially those that have kitchen tools that children are familiar with. As a young girl, I would spend hours in the kitchen with my Great Aunt Eileen. One afternoon she let me choose what dessert we should make for the evening dinner in the harvest field. I chose to make a mud pie. Well, as my Aunt went to the restroom real quick, I quickly gathered all of her kitchen materials and headed out back with the hose. Thankfully, my aunt made the real mud pie for my grandpa to eat for dinner that night.
When thinking of your outdoor environment, consider and think about the things that you loved as a child during the summer. In our last webinar, Engaging Investigation and Learning Outdoors, many participants mentioned things that they remembered as a child. How could you incorporate your childhood memories into your outdoor or investigation opportunities?
The recording to the webinar is available at kodo.learnupon.com to view.
Kodo Kids Materials Mentioned in this Blog: