Considerations for Inclusive Outdoor Learning Environments

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Current events have shifted classic educational models to encompass a wide variety of solutions which includes virtual internet sites like at house or compact studying pods, as effectively as in-particular person classroom models with social distancing and versatile furnishings configurations. Furthermore, numerous schools are embracing the notion of expanding their classrooms into outside studying spaces to permit for more security even though fostering creativity. According to the Children and Nature Network, investigation indicates there are numerous added benefits to studying outdoors, which includes superior physical wellness, possibilities to strengthen motor expertise, pressure relief, stronger verbal and social expertise, and improved interest and cognitive skills.

Children with particular requires could need to have more modifications when moving classrooms outdoors. Here are some essential tips to contemplate when designing a space:

  1. Accessibility is essential. Make certain the space is level and there is a path to the space that is wheelchair accessible. Avoid uneven surfaces and be mindful that grass, stone, or gravel surfaces could be challenging for a student that utilizes crutches, a walker, or a wheelchair to maneuver. Engineered wood fiber or playground foam surfaces are great solutions.
  2. Many students with particular requires could be heat/sun intolerant due to a particular diagnosis or prescription medication. Be certain to have solutions that contain a covered area and/or sun shades to decrease danger.
  3. Outdoor studying spaces usually incorporate dynamic seating solutions like stools that supply minimal help. Be certain to contemplate spatial boundary and supported solutions for kids that could have balance and/or sensory processing troubles. The Rifton Compass Chair tends to make an effortless transportable selection that can be incorporated into current study time outside spaces. The HowdaHug Roll Up Seat is an additional transportable remedy when more trunk stability and/or body in space cues are necessary.
  4. For fine motor tasks, transportable solutions like a weighted lap desk can provide more stability. A slantboard on a tabletop could support with more ergonomic positioning by giving forearm stability and lowering glare/eye strain. A 2-3” binder (rings facing away from the student) with a clipboard on major tends to make an effortless DIY solution in a pinch.
  5. As with indoor studying, meeting the sensory processing requires of students is essential to help focus, interest, and behavior. Adding dynamic seating solutions like a wiggle cushion or movement/compression pieces like the SqUoosh or PeaPod chairs are great alternatives that are transportable and effortless to implement in an outside space. Having transportable vestibular pieces like the Jump & Play Island for a gross motor sensory break or a Pumpkin Chair swing to crawl into for quiet space time will round out versatile sensory solutions.

Being mindful of the accessibility and sensory requires of students with particular requires is the essential to making an inclusive atmosphere that help the principles of Universal Design for Learning. 

Cecilia Cruse

Cecilia Cruse, MS, OTR/L has a BS degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of Florida, and her Master’s degree in Education from Georgia State University. She is SIPT certified and has more than 25 years’ practical experience in pediatrics with college-primarily based services, acute care, and outpatient pediatric settings.
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