Getting our kids outdoors

Outdoor Classroom Case Study: Camp Hill OSHC

Tell us about your center.

Camp Hill OSHC is a reasonably large service catering for 195 children in both the morning and afternoon. We focus largely on outdoor loose parts play facilitated and supervised with a playwork approach.

What type of outdoor play and learning currently happens at your centre?

At OSHC we meet all our Framework (My Time Our Place) outcomes holistically in an outdoor setting. Staff are trained to be deeply engaged and observe play and realize the outcomes, principles, and practices. Children regularly engage in activities such as cooking on the fire, building with loose parts, water play, tree climbing and playing in the rain.

Can you describe your understanding of Outdoor Classroom Day (OCDay) and why your centre is supporting it?

Outdoor Classroom Day to us is a chance to normalise the idea of getting outside to learn. We see this day as a catalyst for showing people just how easy it can be!

What prompted your school to participate in OCDay?

OSHC made the call in 2017 to support the school we are attached to. As only approx. half the preps of the school come to us, the thought was that it would be amazing to share our space with the other children. The children all had an amazing time and in 2018 we decided to invite the prep and grade one children. This time it was conducted over 2 days and was yet again a huge success. We are looking forward to having the prep and year one children back in 2019!

What are some of the topics and learning exercises you shared with your students on OCDay?

The children engaged in a lot of rigorous free play activities in the loose parts adventure playground. In addition to loose parts play we cooked over the fire, made clay tree spirits, set up a tyre run and engaged in water play.

How often do you take your students outside for learning?

Camp Hill OSHC is largely outdoor-based with only weather (and not even always then) forcing us to use inside exclusively.

What are some of the benefits you have found by bringing children outdoors for learning?  In particular, what are the changes to their:

Learning: Children in our outdoor loose parts environment are infinitely more engaged as learners. Their ability to freely choose their activity means they choose to tackle problems relevant to them at that moment supporting engagement and real-life learning outcomes.

Behaviour/personality: The loose parts environment is excessively inclusive as most activities’ activity-driven and always peer-driven. This means we find a range of ages and genders often working together on one project out of interest rather than need. These play frames rarely require implied or direct permission to enter, just an interest, making them very accessible. This supports the involvement of special/additional needs children, socially awkward and anxious children all find a place to play comfortably.

In regards to negative behaviour, we find the outdoor loose part environment is a heavy mitigator indeed. This is largely due to children’s ability to act in a flow state. The outdoor environment has manipulatable risks allowing children to set the degree of challenge relevant to their degree of developed skill. This ensures play, is never too easy, or too hard. Flow theory states that when challenges are too hard, anxiety occurs, and when they are to easy, boredom occurs. Anxiety or boredom being the two largest causations of negative behaviour reducing the chance for them to occur is a great thing.

Participation in teamwork: Teamwork and collaboration are greatly magnified in the outdoor setting.  Loose parts greatly enhance opportunities for children to work together to create and construct their own environment. Some loose parts are heavy and require collaboration to move. Some require a lot of skill to manipulate causing children to innately negotiate, compromise and discuss options together to reach a goal.