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Studying Nature-Based Outdoor Classrooms: Bridging Research and Practice

by Samuel Dennis, Christine Kiewra, Gerry Slater and Pam Boulton
March/April 2018
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Article Link: http://www.childcareexchange.com/article/bridging-research-and-practice/5024072/

Studying Nature-Based Outdoor Classrooms
by Samuel Dennis and Christine Kiewra

Nature-based early childhood education continues to gain momentum in the United States, and the number of programs providing nature-based learning for young children is on the rise. The nature-based outdoor classroom is a distinct type of learning environment in which education and play take place outdoors in a naturalistic setting. Nature-based outdoor classrooms are meant for use in urban and rural locations, in all seasons and all types of weather. Play materials are natural, flexible, open-ended and renewable. 

In “A Post-Occupancy Study of Nature-Based Outdoor Classrooms in Early Childhood Education,” our research team addresses questions related to the use and effectiveness of nature-based outdoor classrooms in a variety of settings, regions, and institutions, with a focus on their physical, social and cognitive impacts. Our specific aims were to (1) under.stand how staff and young people experience these spaces, (2) understand the relationship between specific design settings and associated behavioral and educational outcomes, and (3) develop an evidence base to inform a large-scale quantitative study of nature-based outdoor classrooms. Simply put, our intent was to understand the extent to which the designed spaces supported or produced their intended outcomes.

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