Outdoor Classroom

The ICC Outdoor Classroom

Indianola Children’s Center has been on the cutting edge of nature-based early childhood centers, fostering children’s curiosity with an natural environment. As part of the ICC mission of practicing peaceful conflict resolution, ICC creates a nature-based focus as an extension of the mission. The designed of the Outdoor Classroom fosters a sense of wonder and exploration. It is a space that invites children to explore, run, move, and grow peacefully.

In 2010, ICC was awarded the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Ohio Environmental Education Fund (OEEF) mini-grant for the installation of the rain tank, river and rain garden. We were also recognized as the OEEF Outstanding Project 2012 for our Rain Garden for Children project. ICC is are a member of the Central Ohio Leave No Child Inside Collaborative which invites and encourages children and families to enjoy nature.

In 2014, the Arbor Day Foundation and the Dimensions Educational Foundation awarded Indianola Children’s Center the Nature Explore Classroom Certification.  The first in central Ohio, ICC joins more than 200 certified nature explore classrooms.  According to the Nature Explore research, the natural classroom supports children’s development by engaging in authentic play.  Nature Explore encourages family involvement in outdoor learning, as well.

Outdoor Play-Based Approach

Our outdoor curriculum works hand-in-hand with our indoor curriculum, immersing children in play.  While children may tell their parents that they “just played all day,” our teaching staff is incorporating math, science, art, language and literacy, dramatic play, sensory, large and fine motor activities, music and movement, and social/emotional skill-building. Children are encouraged to interact with plants and natural materials and build their own structures using cardboard boxes. The outdoor play reinforces children’s curiosity, innate creativity, problem-solving and body movement. Recent scientific research affirms that outdoor education enhances school readiness.

Daily Outdoor Play

The teachers take the children outside.  They go outside daily, rain or shine , snow or otherwise.   Children will get messy and wet. They play in rain, snow, dirt, mud, water and sand. It is healthy for people to enjoy the variety of seasons and mercurial weather patterns in Ohio.  Children are quite adaptive when properly equipped.

“There’s no such thing as bad weather – just bad clothes”, as the saying goes. By providing proper outdoor clothing such as summer water shoes, rain boots and raincoats, winter snow suits, and hats and gloves, children can comfortably enjoy the outdoors.

The ICC Outdoor Classroom Features:

  • A 550-gallon rain tank that empties into a “river” and rain garden
  • Logs (for jumping and climbing)
  • Dirt for digging
  • Rocks for turning, lifting and moving
  • Mud, straw, “pea gravel” and other natural mediums for exploration
  • Music wall
  • Sand/water play area
  • Quiet grassy area
  • Summertime flower and vegetable garden (our produce becomes snacks: salsa, pesto, sliced veggies)
  • Flowers, birds and beneficial insects
  • Apple trees and edibles
  • Traditional play equipment (balls, crates, bicycles, tricycles, cardboard boxes, tubes)