Thursday, May 26, 2022

ICAN Nature Play Days


Each year, Indiana Children & Nature Network promotes nature play throughout the state through a statewide effort for nature play in June. We'll be cohosting the following nature playdates in Elkhart County. Watch for other nature playdates throughout the region and state at the ICAN website

Thursday, June 2nd--Goshen private residence, 3:45-4:45  pm,Tinkergarten trial class, limited availability. Sign up here at the Tinkergarten website

Friday, June 3rd—Courthouse Yard, Goshen, 6-9 pm

Monday, June 6th—Mill Street Park, Goshen, 5:30-7:30 pm

Friday, June 10th—Elkhart Environmental Center, Elkhart, 10am-11:30 am

Friday, June 10th—Krider Gardens, Middlebury, 1-3 pm

Friday, July 16, 2021

Barriers to Getting Outside

 Listen to this on the Loose Parts Nature Play podcast! 

Barriers to getting outside


Q: Every year I have more and more kids who DO NOT play outside and are hesitant to get out of their comfort zone. Reluctant students. 

What an opportunity to give them the gift of the outdoors. Continue to educate parents, families, use the outdoors as homework, share tips with parents, celebrate the outdoor time

Baby steps into the outdoors if some need that more. 

Host family nights, family nature club, etc. 

Podcast episode—Help! The kids aren’t playing! 


Q: Definition of outdoor learning//Curriculum/Simple planning

I feel like I’m hearing two different definitions. One is more exploratory and using nature to teach. One seems to just be doing your work outside. Which is it? 

Yes! Both! Many start by dabbling with just taking regular work outside (reading is a great example); however, nature/outdoors can be easily integrated. Lots of curriculum—Growing Up Wild, Project Learning Tree, Project Wild, Project Flying Wild, Wild Math, Loose parts, nature, and math

Emergent curriculum

Nature studies

Okay to keep it simple—sit spot, free exploration time, journaling

Sledding-sleds! Yes! 

Store common needs near where they will be used—what could this school use? Sleds, magnifying glasses, tools, etc.

 (who takes ownership of the space? That is what is often problematic. Rotate once a quarter/month?)


Q: Communication

Sharing what’s happening when it’s still happening

How to respect each other

            Knowledge, experience, comfort

Try it!

Partner with someone else

What do you like doing outside?

Not required at this time, but the school is heading in this direction. How can you be part of it? 

Baby steps.

Finding a good fit for educators


Q: Bugs, bugs, and more bugs

Get curious about them

Children are naturally drawn to them

Use insect repellant

Use tools to investigate them (nets, jars, tweezers, etc.)


Connecting Children to Animals podcast episode


Q: I get really nervous about where everyone is and losing someone. Lots of head counting—ha ha! 

Yes, lots of head counting! 

Set boundaries—cones, tree tape to mark it, bandanas, etc.

Establish that children need to be where you can see them and they can see you.

Buddy up! 

Enlist help—smaller groups of 4-5 with one adult volunteer in the space.

Practice, practice, practice! 


Q; Safety/Parents who worry about injury

·      first aid kit and basic first aid skills

·      Educate Parents—risky tool kit for parents from Canada, invite parents to be part of it

·      Climbing trees—will talk about it soon

·      Bees—practice being inquisitive of bees, be still, when we react they are more likely to 

·      Asthma attacks—know medical needs of students, have them carry inhalers/epi pens, know of closest nurse (at the high school), have communication available

·      Being the only adult—Set boundaries, walkie talkies/communication plan, first aid kit, consider volunteers or extra staff. Pair up with another group. What happens if alone?

·      Ticks—preventive—long, light colored pants tucked into socks, hair tied back, avoid animal trails, bug spray, do regular tick checks—have tick protocol in place if you find one (tick remover tool, put tick on tape and save, alert parents, clean with alcohol wipe)

·      Cold (frostbite)/kids not having proper clothing/not warm enough—decide on lows/highs of weather/feels like temps (share chart), layers, have extra clothes/gloves, fire to warm up, warm tea in the weather, stay active, educate families on what the child will need, practice putting on clothes, hand warmers, go out for shorter times if needed and build up to longer time outside, waterproof glove covers (Merry Lea), have a lending closet, allow donations/swaps (FB group)

·      Poison ivy—learn to identify, clear regular play areas of poison ivy, use coveralls for children, mark where poison ivy is to be aware of it. With 2/3 year olds—clear it of the area or wear coveralls—use a smaller space

·      Stinging nettles—learn to identify, only problematic parts of the year, jewelweed is a natural relief for it, sting only lasts about 15 minutes, have legs/feet covered up, clear as needed

·      Weather/cold (addressed above), rain, lightning, shelter needed? Watch the weather. Identify a shelter/plan for when in the outdoor space, rain gear

·      Restroom access—port a potty/composting toilet, handwashing station, portable toilet (Merry Lea)

·      Danger—sticks, tree climbing (see above)—sticks need space, shorter than forearm or big enough that it needs several people to move it, stick to stick


Q: Having enough buses and bus drivers available throughout the day/scheduling/Transportation

Work out a rotating schedule with supervisors

Sign up sheet—everyone gets a certain time at first and then others can sign up for more? 

Schedule sharing/overlap—lots of space/divide it into zones if it’s starting to get too busy? 

Join in with another group! (teacher who had high school pe join in with them)


Q: Liability Issues/Accidents (usually have fewer than on a traditional playground—what do you do if there is an accident on the playground? Document.)


Trained for risky play/management

Educate parents of what you are doing

Safety checks/maintenance

Risk/benefit assessment


Q: Our time schedule/Time

We have designated times for each minute of the day for the subjects we teach and specials throughout the day.

Designate weekly, monthly, or quarterly days to be out. 

Take the subjects outside.

Do “special” days outside.

Combine with specials for outdoor time. 

Try it! 

How can you flex the schedule? 

Could schedules be rearranged slightly to cluster specials into one half of the day allowing for more time outdoors the other half?

How can specials classes use the outdoors? 

Use travel time as learning time

Specials—only have 30 to 60 minutes—consider prolonging sessions once a quarter to bring children outside. Use nature closer to the classroom. Bring nature inside.


Q: Prepared for upper grades?

Still teaching the same standards, just adding in another, enriching context. 

Continue using a variety of good teaching practices.


Q: Tree Climbing in Early Childhood

Share Tree Climbing Toolkit

Risk benefit

Consider your risk tolerance

What to Say Instead of Be Careful

July/Aug 2021 Commonly Asked Tree Climbing Questions in Exchange


Q: I didn’t know how to introduce “fairy house building” (seemed fun but far-fetched).

“tiny friends”

Architecture books

Leaf huts

Fairy hut


Leave a letter of request from fairies

Stem challenge

Animal architects—build like the animals—podcast episode



Q: Would like our Clubhouse Enrichment class to be held here at the HS. The space is amazing! 

It is! Try to use it as much as you can and identify smaller spots closer to your home school as well.


From a teacher: 

My only barrier is to realize there are no barriers. –YES! Yes! Yes!

Tree Climbing in Early Childcare Settings!

 Excited to have our research on tree climbing in early childhood settings out in the most recent issue of Exchange Press!

Check it out here!

Marcia Berkey, Marlene Bigler and 104 others