Outdoor Classroom

Our 3- and 4-year-old classes embark on a unique adventure every other week, immersing themselves in the enchanting outdoor classrooms at nearby Long Branch. For the 4s classes, this outdoor exploration unfolds on Tuesdays, while the 3s classes embrace the outdoors on Fridays. Regardless of weather conditions – be it rain, snow, or shine – children revel in unstructured play and exploration, making the most of their mornings outdoors. In the case of rainy weather, our base camp is set up at a nearby picnic shelter, yet we often find that the children are just as thrilled to explore in the rain as they are in dry weather. Even on snowy days, the allure of the outdoor classrooms remains magical for the children. Moreover, our 2s and Panda classes also schedule days at Long Branch throughout the year, ensuring that even our littlest friends experience the wonders of a morning in the woods.

Why Outdoor Classrooms?

In the Fall of 2014, AUCP launched its outdoor classroom program, drawing inspiration from Lisa Molomot and Rona Richter’s documentary, “School’s Out: Lessons from a Forest Kindergarten.” Blessed with abundant green spaces in Arlington, we are grateful for the opportunity to integrate more “forest time” into our play-based curriculum. From the staff’s perspective, the outdoor classroom has been a transformative and thrilling journey as we witness the remarkable transformation of the children’s skills.

Some field notes from our outdoor classroom staff:

  • Unique Social Interactions: Social interactions among the children take on a distinct nature in the woods. Traditional gender norms blur as girls play with boys, boys play with girls, and even the more reserved children often find their voices, emerging as leaders in the woodland setting.
  • Enriched Dramatic Play: Dramatic play experiences are elevated and extended beyond their usual boundaries. The woods provide an abundance of symbolic props that enhance the storylines crafted by the children.
  • Stimulated Interest in Learning: Children become more observant and engaged in reading, seeking to acquire information relevant to their outdoor adventures. Signs, field guides, markers along the path, and even the occasional piece of collected trash become valuable sources of knowledge.
  • Developing Gross Motor Skills: Navigating slippery banks and climbing over fallen logs fosters gross motor skills in ways that a structured playground cannot. The ever-changing landscape demands careful attention and adjustment, promoting reasoned risk-taking and personal responsibility.
  • Inspiring a Sense of Wonder: Time spent in the woods inspires a profound sense of wonder, both in the intricate details surrounding them and the broader transformations occurring from season to season.

Take a look at these great resources to learn more: