Playground – Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom: Teachers Speak, You Decide

by Dexter Lane, Nature Explore Consultant

TeachersSpeak_BlogOur November 14 blog asked you to imagine yourself as a teacher; first on playground duty, then in a Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom.

You’re the Teacher” explored the differences between the two experiences.  We wrote that, “Education professionals tell us that their schools are different after getting an outdoor classroom.”

A few weeks after “You’re the Teacher” was posted we spoke with teachers from a Lincoln, Nebraska elementary school that has both a traditional playground and a Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom.

Following is an unedited section of the interview in which teachers were talking about children’s activities in their outdoor classroom. No comments or analysis are necessary.

Teacher 1

“Half of our class really engages together.  They almost always decide on something, and work together on something.  They’ll decide they’re going to find worms, and they’ll make a house for worms.  They just sort of naturally do it.  Some will start making the house, then other kids will join.  They never argue about anything.”

Teacher 2

“That’s one thing about the outdoor classroom versus just watching them play on the playground.  They’re much more collective and working together in the outdoor classroom.  When they’re on the playground it’s much more like, “Let’s fight, or chase, or run at each other or battle.”  But when they’re in the outdoor classroom it’s much more like, “Watch me jump,” or, “Let’s build a tower together,” or, “Let’s look for butterflies,” or “Look what I found.”  It’s so much more peaceful compared to the “RRRRRRRR!” on the playground.”


“There’s much more imaginative playing, too.”

Teacher 2

“They’re making connections.  They’re talking a lot more to you about what they see in the outdoor classroom.”

Later in the interview, a teacher spoke about children’s transition between the playground and the outdoor classroom.

Teacher 2

“I think we see a change across the semester with the kids, like from that first time we go out into the outdoor classroom and it’s recess mentality, to now when they’re slower and more observant.  They look for things and they have things planned.  They learn to use the space, even across the course of a semester.”