The Outdoor Classroom

The Best Kind of Classroom
by Ian MacMillan

This is the best kind of classroom,
No walls, just sky and trees.
This is the best kind of classroom:
No radiators, just a gentle breeze.
You can learn here well, as the birds sing
About your place in the scheme of things.
You can make up poems about woodland flowers.
Why it’s almost as good at the Literacy Hour!

Photo Credit: Leslie Daniels

Yes, spring has sprung, and even though many parts of the world are still covered in snow and/or experiencing other wintry conditions, it’s that time of year to think about spending more quality time outdoors. Spring is often when our minds and bodies are yearning more than ever to get some fresh air and to stretch our legs. Perhaps you may just want to dip your toes into the cool water in order to sense the revitalization of the new season, or perhaps you might like to indulge in a more active role through game playing.

Active, outdoor games are always enticing to play this time of year; and what better way is there to spend time with your children than by playing games? Right outside your door, you and your children could play marbles, hopscotch or other sidewalk chalk games, such as tic-tac-toe or hangman. Jumping rope, flying kites, blowing bubbles, or even washing the family car (or your bikes) can be enjoyable outdoor experiences.

Photo Credit: Leslie Daniels

If you want to keep the outdoor activities on a more educational level and relating to the current school lessons, you might include: exploring nature and observing new signs of spring, taking a conducted sensory walk, practicing math skills with natural objects, writing a journal entry on a picnic table at a local park, gathering wild edibles for your upcoming cooking project, composing a poem by your favorite tree, painting a picture with a feather you found, or helping with a community clean-up event!

The creator of the website, “Mess For Less”, provides ideas and activities for playful learning with kids. You might enjoy viewing the ideas offered in 25 Outdoor Learning Games.

Jump Into Spring!

Jump Jim Joe

Jump, jump, jump Jim Joe!

Shake your head and nod your head and tap your toe.

Round and round and round you go,

‘Til you find another partner and you jump Jim Joe!

(American Tradition)

It’s official! Spring has arrived! It’s time to jump for joy! 

As we all know, spring is the season of the year when everything comes alive in nature. Spring begins on the day the center of the sun is directly over the equator. This year, the spring equinox (also known as the vernal equinox) arrived on March 20th, as the sun crossed the equator and started moving northward. As the sun travels north, its rays strike the northern countries more directly each day. Spring will last until June 21st; hence, summer arrives! (In the southern hemisphere, spring begins in September and ends in December.)

Springtime brings a new sense of renewal and rejuvenation, and everything bursts forth with a revitalized energy. It always seems like children grow springs on their feet in springtime, for their physical activities heighten at this time of year. One of my favorite activities to share with children during the season of spring is jump roping. It is an old traditional favorite that is often forgotten. Not only is it extremely enjoyable, it also builds physical endurance and is healthy for the heart.

I recently attended a basketball game at a local university. A troupe of jump ropers called the Firecrackers performed at halftime. They are an awe-inspiring performance jump rope team of physically skilled 4th-8th graders from the Kings Local School District in Ohio. They perform at venues around the country, and have even performed at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a Presidential Inauguration, and on The David Letterman Show. Your children will delight in watching one of their video performances.

Anna Banana bookThe Firecrackers’ amazing feats with their ropes inspired me to get out my own jump rope. I have especially enjoyed sharing with my local home school students a number of jump rope rhymes I remembered from my childhood. If you are inspired to jump rope with your children, here is an excellent website that offers a plethora of rhymes. You might also look for a book of jump rope rhymes the next time you are visiting your local library. One of my favorite books is  Anna Banana – 101 Jump-Rope Rhymes, written by the author of The Magic School Bus series, Joanna Cole.

So, now that spring has arrived, we delight in witnessing flowers bursting into bloom, birds beginning their nesting rituals, and bunnies happily hopping about. Spring is the time to shake off winter and explore the great outdoors. Watch your kites soar, splash through puddles, poke some fat pea seeds into the earth, hop like a bunny, or just jump for joy. There are so many wonderful ways to celebrate the arrival of spring!

UP With Words!

I woke UP this morning, and after getting UP, watching the sun come UP and drinking UP my cUP of tea, I began thinking UP words. UP on top of my list was the word, UP. “What’s UP with UP?” I asked myself. If you look UP the word, UP, in the dictionary, you will discover that its origins come from Old English and its first known use was before the 12th century. It can be identified as a noun, a verb, or an adverb, adjective or preposition; and as you can tell from reading this blogpost, it can also be used as an idiomatic expression.

upwords_lrgThere are so many ways to use the word, UP, in your vernacular. Here is a fun blogsite that brings us UP to date with all the ways we can use the word, UP. Now it’s your turn to come UP with your own word to play with. It’s totally UP to you, but what I know is that this two-letter word has brightened UP my day! So start UP your day by smiling UP to your ears. Look UP and read UP on your favorite word of the day. Then load UP The 5th Dimension song, “UP, UP and Away“, pull UP a chair and write a poem with your UPstanding children using the UP word family – or – you might even come UP with the idea of playing a word-building board game such as “Scrabble” or “UPwords”!

Thumbs UP for the words that keep us UP on top of the world!