"Do we have to go outside?"
When a few of my students muttered this as we got ready for recess, I had to contain my sadness. I know I live in Wisconsin and the outdoors are not always the friendliest place to a five year old. Considering it was late April, just a stitch under 40 degrees, and it had been drizzly all morning, I understood them . . . to a point.
But part of me felt heartbroken. On a day where the playground was literally full of worms coming up from the watery earth and an amazing sky of clouds was rolling in, I hoped creative play would take over. I was disappointed. There was complaining, standing around, and a constant buzz of questions about when recess was over. I can't and won't blame the kids. It is the adults and the creativity-crushing culture that has taken away the ability to play and get dirty and just be free.
Anyone who knows me knows I am passionate about a variety of things. With time-efficiency struggles and increasing responsibilities on my plate, any time I can combine passions, I am game. That is why my classroom moves outdoors whenever possible. Does it take a little more time, cause some extra planning, and induce some more stress? Is it worth it? Absolutely. Is it something I can build on? I sure hope so.
Any free time I have had recently has been focused on pouring through literature on various topics. From Richard Louv's ideas on nature-deficit disorder, David Elkind's view on natural play, and my own feelings on outdoor learning, I know I am in the right profession, but am wondering how I can take it to the next step. . . a "natural" one.
The concept of forest kindergartens greatly intrigues me, even though the Wisconsin climate may not as conducive as forest kindergartens currently in existence. I'll use our four seasons as an opportunity rather than a nuisance. Getting my students outdoors regularly, knowing full well it might have some some "consequences" is something I will be doing.
Will their QUANTITY be impacted? Probably. Will my kids write as much. . . .maybe not. Will they read as fast. . .probably not. Will they be distracted. . .yep. Will it cause other behavior issues. . .you bet.
Will it be worth it? Will it provide a more QUALITY educational experience and set them up for success in the future? In my opinion, a resounding YES.