Embracing the outdoors!

We are well into summer, and as such, time spent in our outdoor environment has become a key part of the daily schedule. Children meet, eat, and play outside as much as possible. In our outdoor space we are lucky to have many features that make it an interesting and engaging environment for the children to interact with nature, materials, works, and each other. The next few posts I’m writing will explore the outdoors!

This week, I’m introducing our outdoor coordinator, Mr. Dan!

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Dan Dixon is the Outdoor Environment Coordinator for the Co-Op. He earned his Masters in education from Bank Street College in New York City, going on to work for many years as Museum Educator, Exhibit Developer and Curator at various museums in New York City. Now as is the Co-op science teacher as well as outdoor coordinator, Mr. Dan has worked to imbue the outdoor space with rich activities and tools for engagement. He is constantly thinking about how things work, considering new ways to improve and amend the daily processes at our school. His work on the outdoor space has helped it to become the valuable educational environment that it is.

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Having a dedicated Outdoor Environment Coordinator is a new thing for the Co-op! Prior to our move into the new school in 2014, our outdoor space was so small that there was no real need for such a position. Now that we have a generous space with a forested hillside an educator with a love for Montessori and the complexities of nature is a necessity! We have worked to develop a school philosophy on the outdoor space;

Montessori viewed nature as a fundamental force in the growth of children.  She underscores the importance of nature in education when she writes, “We have intimate communications with nature. The best means of invigorating the child is to immerse him in nature. It is well then, to develop this feeling of trust and confidence in living creatures, which is, moreover, a form of love, and of union with the universe.”  And, “It is also necessary for his psychical development to place the soul of the child in contact with creation, in order that he may lay up for himself  treasure from the directly educating forces of living nature.”
– Dr. Montessori

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The Co-op is proud and excited to have an outdoor space that is offers so much opportunity for the children. We view the outdoor space as an extension of the classroom, a prepared environment that is a dynamic and active space for learning and play. Each area of the outdoor environment has been considered, and tools for engagement with the different areas are offered to the children. This reflection of the organization of the indoor space creates a more natural flow for the children to continue their work into the outdoors.

Features of our outdoor space:

-Nature Trail

-Works on shelves

-Reading area

-Stick building area

-Water play area

-Gardens

-Potting station

-Play structures

-Sports areas

-Dirt digging area

I will be going into more depth about each of these features in the next blog post, so stay tuned!

–Teal Gardner

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