Outdoor Adventure Learning Space

August 17, 2018

The Horace Mann Laboratory School, located on the Northwest Missouri State University campus, provides future teachers a novel way to gain field experience, and an opportunity to work with professors and classroom teachers as they prepare to engage students of their own.

When it came time to relocate the traditional playground, the school decided to extend the concept already in place for the early childhood outdoor space and develop an outdoor classroom. According to principal Sandy Seipel, calling it an outdoor classroom was very intentional as it was never meant to be just a playground.

The kids had a very active role in creating the outdoor classroom and were involved every step of the way. When asked, “if you were going to create a space, what would you want,” they said swings, to be able to run, and to relax in hammocks.

Creating an Outdoor Adventure Learning Space

Nature Explore designed an inviting space, which included the trees already there, and brought nature into the learning experience for the children, the teachers, and the university students. For instance, there are tree stumps and blocks, where the kids work together cooperatively to manipulate and move them. There are rain barrels to catch rain water which the children can use to water plants in the garden beds. There are benches under the trees for the children and university students to sit and work.

There is also an adventure play area with a climbing structure, musical stage, walking track, and much more. ABcreative consultant, Tim McNamara, helped create this part of the outdoor space, which included:

  • outdoor adventure learning spaceThe Pentagode, an adventurous net structure with plenty of space for children to climb. Kids who may be more cautious can play at the bottom, while those who are more adventurous have the thrill of climbing to the top. And the rope structure offers transparency making it easy for line-of-site supervision.
  • The Cloud 9 swings gave the children the “hammocks” they were looking for. These accessible swings let several children fly “on the cloud” at one time, enabling children of all abilities to enjoy the swinging movement. There’s not just one, but two arranged in a line to provide a truly unique group swinging experience.
  • The Volta inclusive spinner is designed for children of all abilities and has multiple seats, too. The outward facing seats provide more independence and adventure while inward facing seats with high backs allow for more security.

Outdoor musical instruments

Outdoor adventure Learning spaceBecause the school is on the university campus with dorms and instructional buildings, it was important to have instruments with a pleasant sound and not too loud. ABcreative worked with the school to find just the right Percussion Play outdoor musical instruments for the musical stage.

  • The mounted Duo was chosen specifically because it was accessible on both sides with room for anyone in a wheelchair to pull up to it and play. The curved design makes it easier for those with a limited range of movement to reach all notes. In addition, it promotes intergenerational activities.(Click the link to go to the Percussion Play website to hear its sound.)
  • The larger set of Chimes make it easy for children of any age to play whether standing or sitting in a wheelchair.
  • The Marimba with its mellow, warm rich sound looks like hardwood, blending well with the nature concept of the outdoor learning center.

An outdoor space for all

According to Sandy, this outdoor learning space meets the needs of children of all abilities. The facilities crew at the school was on board with the concept from the start and went out of their way to help make it happen.

In addition, since the learning space was funded by a land/water conservation grant, the area is designated as a park in the community, so it can be used in the evenings and off-hours by the public. And, Sandy says, it is always busy!

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