Monday, December 28, 2009

There Is No Bad Weather, Just Bad Clothing

There is no bad weather, just bad clothing. –Norwegian proverb

Among the handful of things commonly known about the coastal Pacific Northwest, is that it rains a lot. Not necessarily in terms of inches (there are many places that get more total rainfall) but in terms of days, weeks and months of overcast skies and misty precipitation, turning to drizzle, then back again. We usually get a couple cold snaps each year, but don’t count on snow, except in the mountains, because the nearby Pacific Ocean keeps our winters mild. No, from September through May we’re all about cool and moist, with occasional wind thrown in for good measure.

And in spite of that, we love to hike, camp, boat, ski, fish and generally do pretty much anything one can do in nature. If you’ve lived in the Northwest for any length of time, you’ll identify with this TV commercial, which just might be my favorite of all time:

At Woodland Park playing outside is an option during our large motor time no matter what the weather, but I’ve recently been thinking that this isn’t enough. Why shouldn’t we, for instance, be making our art outside? Why shouldn’t we be building with blocks outside? And is there any better place than outdoors for sensory experiences, fine motor development, and dramatic play?

Last week, Australian preschool teacher Mamabare wrote a piece on her terrific blog, Let The Children Play, about the "forest school" movement in Europe and linked to this inspiring video about an outdoor preschool in Norway. As Mamabare warns, it’s a little long (especially if you check out the second half for which the link is provided below) so you might want to “grab a cuppa” before hitting play:

(Here's the link to the second half of this film.)

It looks like my daughter’s beloved summer camp, except it goes all year long! We’re an urban preschool, so we don’t have the direct access to the forests, mountains and ponds that these kids do, but we still have the outside. I’m definitely going to be planning some all-outdoor days for the New Year.

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Anonymous said...

I've always been convinced whoever came up with that proverb has never been to North Dakota. Of course, this comes on the heels of having just shoveling out from 24 inches of snow. Which wouldn't have been so bad had the blizzard not blown it all into 6 foot drifts. Not to mention all the days of below zero windchills.

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carlylennox said...

Ashamedly, the culture in my country is run for shelter and stay indoors during the rain! And it rains a lot! :(
However, there is a shift in thinking and the idea of the outdoor classroom is really catching on, slowly but surely. In my daughter's nursery the children all have a pair of wellies for rainy days. If you Google The Little Book of Outside in All Weathers, you'll see my favourite book of ideas for exploring outdoors... whatever the weather!

Marla McLean, Atelierista said...

At my public school, if it is below 32 degrees children are not even taken outside at the end of the day to be picked up by their parents, the parents must come inside. Since the majority of the kids live in the neighborhood and walk home, it really makes no sense.
I met teachers from Scotland who also have outdoor Kindergartens. Wonderful stuff.

Deborah Stewart said...

I overheard a father talking to his little two year old girl the other day as he was carrying her through the freezing cold air in a parking lot. The little girl was looking around bright eyed and smiling while the father was making a mad dash for the warmth of the store. He said to his little girl, "I can see that the cold bothers me much more that it does you."

jenny said...

Its all certainly food for thought isn't it? I love finding out what people are doing in other countries.

We have free choice indoor / outdoor play everyday so kids are free to choose to be outside all day if thats where their interests are taking them. We have to be careful in the heat, but we try to support the kids to monitor themselves and stay in the shade on really hot days. Even in the rain if they ask they can go out with raincoats on. Who doesn't remember playing in the rain as a kid?

We all know that children learn through play but sometimes I think preschools (some preschools in australia) place more emphasis on the benefits of play that happens indoors, and outdoors is just for running around and letting off steam. By letting the kids have free flow indoor outdoor play (I think) we are saying that play just as valuable in the sandpit as in the writing corner.

I'm still thinking it through :)

Unknown said...

Can't wait to hear about your outdoor days. Brrrrrrrrrrrrr.

When we went sledding yesterday the kids were exuberant in their want to stay longer. We had already been out for 3 hours. I think it is delightful how they love the outdoors!

Eva C. said...

Yes! An all-outdoor preschool day would rock my world!