ABC and 123: A Learning Collaborative: The Inside Out Classroom

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Inside Out Classroom

Have you ever heard the expression, "Anything you do inside can be done outside."? Well it's true!Everything that happens in your indoor classroom can be taken outside and implemented with a twist; it's the Inside Out Classroom!

This time of the year centers, story time, art and much more should be taken outside. Get as messy as you want, the grass won't mind. Take a quilt to the nearest oak and have a story time that is relaxing. Explore an entire science center that is filled with natural elements such as leaves, grass blades, rocks, twigs and everything crawling!

My co-worker and I trained an outdoor workshop one summer that was called Rock Your World With Outdoor Play. It was fantastic! Below are some of the amazing pictures that were captured.

Art Fence (this is fancy!)

Pool Time, Story Time

Shaving Fun

These are garden hats made out of shelf paper and Duct tape!

Playdough should be on every playground.

Turn sensory tubs into something extraordinary. Try something a little different than just water. Use colored water, colored sand, colored rice and pasta, colored shaving cream, and of course clean mud. It's the time of year to go crazy with colors outdoors; give the playground a little spice.

If you have never allowed the kids to play with clean mud, you have to let them try. You can use baby wash (to keep their eyes safe) and rolls of toilet paper. Part of the experience is allowing them to create the process.

I always like to start with a toilet paper party. Yes, allow the kids to throw toilet paper rolls around (gross motor skills can justify this act, just in case you need that justification), allow them to play rolling games (have them roll and see which child's roll goes the furthest, graph the outcomes with the children and justify this act with pre-math skills), and have a spin off contest. This activity can take some time so be prepared to stay outside a while:) After all of the rolls have been rolled empty, have the kids gather them for another great experiment.

In one or more sensory tubs, have children place their toilet paper, add the baby wash and then add water just to the top of the pile. Mix and you have clean mud! This is a wonderful sensory activity and the kids love it. *Tip-if you allow the mud to dry overnight or so, you can pick it out of the tub and dispose of it when it's dry and doesn't weight as much! Hey, you can measure the weight of the wet mud versus the dry and use compare and contrast. Don't forget to record their answers!

We shaved soap for this, but you can use the baby soap with the kids.

See we're only half way throughout the day and we are already having so much fun.

Sometimes you can get away with so much more outdoors, so be extra creative with any indoor activities and expand upon them to create great outdoor spaces.

There is a preschool here in Florida that has the greatest outdoor playground! They have outdoor kitchens set up with real pots and pans (most likely from the Goodwill) and plastic serving ware, wash tubs for washing dishes, wash tubs for washing clothes and a clothesline to boot. Yes, the kids can scrub the clothes on washboards and hand their clothes on the line. It's the coolest thing. The motor skills in washing and hanging the clothes is phenomenal. Their kitchen has mud so that the kids can make mud pies and pizzas.

There is an outdoor block area, an art area and outdoor library. Even a home living house equipped with anything you can imagine.

This is truly an outdoor space built for kids with imaginations. And don't they all have imaginations? Allow yourself to close your eyes and think back to when you were just 3, 4, or 5-years-old. Some of my greatest memories took place outdoors. Don't be afraid to step outside of the room and turn everything inside out!

Until next time...go teach the children!
PB&J Preschool


  1. I love this post :). I've been doing some recent presentations on outdoor classrooms, and I love to see other folks advocating for outdoor play!

  2. LOVE the hats but made them out of paper!