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Updated by Grace Suico on Mar 22, 2015
Headline for Growing Roots Indoors
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Growing Roots Indoors

The child's indoor environment is crucial towards their overall development. The architectural design process must be catered to the needs of the ones living in that environment: the teachers and children. Children must feel safe, be provided with age-appropriate materials, as well as have engaging activities that cater to their developmental levels and interests. The problem lies in the lack of nature being incorporated within the indoor classroom environments. Teachers must incorporate learning that enhances nature by bringing the "outdoors inside". The external links provided below include suggestions for materials, activities and its importance to each child's cognitive, physical and socio-emotional development. It also includes ways including nature indoors benefit children with special needs and different cultural backgrounds. Nature provides the transition of real-life experiences outside indoors. Nature contains open-ended materials that encourage creative learning. Nature allows experiments that answer children's curious thoughts and questions. It is undeniable that nature should be embedded into the design process of children's indoor environment.

Be Reggio Inspired: Indoor Learning Environments

This blog highlights the environment as being the third teacher, therefore the materials, the use of space, and placement of equipment must have a purpose. The whole design process of the room must be welcoming, organized, and filled with various learning opportunities. Nature provides beauty, for example, collecting shells and placing it in a class jar. Nature enhances the scent in the room, for example, adding flowers. Nature encourages fine and gross motor skills by adding several sizes of sticks and logs. By providing containers made of tree trunks and/or branches, it teaches a child respect for their materials, and leads to their respect for nature as well. It also enhance their creativity because their perspective of a tree trunk has changed and they soon realize that a simple stick has countless creative outcomes. Nature materials provide infinite outcomes because they are open-ended, therefore children are more likely to be motivated to learn. There is often no "right or wrong way" when playing with open-ended materials, thus increasing their self-esteem and confidence. By bringing nature indoors, children develop extraordinary physical, cognitive and socio-emotional skills that will only benefit them in the future (Jenny Kable, Including Play Outside)

The Architecture of Early Childhood: Reflecting Culture

This blog stresses the importance of architectural design and culture when integrating nature indoors. "The Mana Tamariki school, which caters for children from 0 to 18 years was recognised for it's design reflecting and responding at many levels to its local context and culture" (Making Space 2010). The design concept followed a journey from young to old using symbols and certain characteristics to represent the spirit of whanau. In addition, an indoor "nest" was created, which allowed children to play above adults heads. Children climbed up, and felt a sense of privacy but adults were able to still see them to ensure their safety. It shows that structure can be created indoors to enhance the outdoors. We often see nests on top of tress outside, but this design allowed children to use their imagination and have a different perspective. The nature inspired environment provides children with an environment that reflects their values, creating a safe and "home-like feeling" and creates opportunities for them to be independent and socialize with others. (Author: Jess, The Architecture of Early Childhood)

Bringing Green into the Classroom: Teacher's Role

This blog highlights the importance of teachers in the classroom and their role in integrating nature indoors. It encourages green school teachers and students. It focuses on the hands-on activities that help save the planet. Children can grow their own plants within the classroom environment and invite experts to talk in more detail about the importance of nature. It provides the benefits of instilling a sense of connectedness to nature because it leads students interest of global issues such as recycling, storm-water runoff or air pollution. Children's interest for nature begins with the teacher, and if teachers don't provide the necessary materials, activities and classroom environment filled with opportunities to observe, explore and discover, nature learning won't occur.(Kenny Luna, Meaghan O'Neill and Manon Verchot, Treehugger)

Bringing Nature into the Classroom: Behavioural Effects

This blog emphasizes the calming effects of bringing nature indoors. It provides real-life examples, such as a stressed child being able to regulate their emotions by stroking the leaves. Children are able to connect with the materials in the room, thus use these items to help control their emotions and relax. It provides examples of items, to bring inside the room, which include large logs, sticks, rocks and bark. Another way of calming children is using the architectural design to your advantage. If there is adequate natural light, creating a "private" area where children can crawl into for "me time". The lights in the room can be turned off, which directly affects the child's behaviour, thus feeling relaxed (Emily, Holistic Approach Family Day Care)

A Nature Preschool | Natural Start

This video provides an indoor tour of a nature preschool. It emphasizes the importance of the materials within the room since most of the items are natural. Most of the materials in the room are made of wood, such as the cubbies, the washroom dividers, the one-story loft area, chairs, shelves and tables. The windows are large, some of them starting from the floor and rising up to the ceiling, often looking out to the nature view outdoors and allow adequate natural light in. The ceiling is made of wood and projected outwards so that it gives children the feeling that they are out in the woods. Some of the materials include aquariums that have tarantulas, crickets and a bird feeder beside the windows, which give them an opportunity to be responsible for taking care of animals. There is a door that connects to a deck outdoors where children often play and take part in activities, such as yoga. The unique component of this preschool is the transition to an outdoor forest, which encourages children to bring materials, such as bones and feathers, inside the room and create their own indoor environment based on their interest (Ben Eldridge, Natural Start)

Spotlight TEDx Talk: How one architect builds magical spaces for kindergarten students

"In Tachikawa, Japan, there exists a sweeping oval building, constructed around a mélange of 80-foot-high zelkova trees. The building's roof is low, wide, lined with boards and dotted with skylights - a whimsical, floating walkway; the trees are shrouded in netting and children bounce from branches to netting and back." This video supports the importance of architectural design when incorporating nature indoors. The video portrays an inclusive classroom, designed with a rooftop (that allows children to play), tress that grow through the building, and bars set up so that it prevents children from playing but allows them to see outside their barriers. There are built in solar panels that support natural lighting, and no boundaries within classrooms, so that every child has opportunity to play in different social age groups. It becomes evident that playing outdoors can become a safety hazard, therefore, when we incorporate, a large tree indoors, for instance, it becomes a concern. Therefore, a safe netting at the bottom fixes that concern and allows children to continue playing freely without restricting them to stop climbing. This video is an extraordinary architectural design that supports an environment that encourages natural learning. (Haley Reissman, TEDx Innovations)

Natural light in learning environments by Michaelidou Katerina

Often, light is being taken for granted, however light plays a vital role in a child's learning environment. Turning the light switch on and off can be a cue for transitional routine, and a way for teacher's to get children's attention. Light is turned on when children are playing or reading books. It is important to understand the impact of natural light in a classroom. Since natural light affects a child's health, learning performance and comfort level, it is important that there are significant exterior windows in each room. These windows enhance views towards nature and increase the amount of daylight. It also supports children learning by providing the opportunity to use the daylight so that their plants get the sun light it needs to grow. "The electromagnetic radiation from natural light, coming directly from the sun, can harm but also benefit the human body, therefore, exposure to sunlight must be controlled" (Michaelidou, 2012). This can be done by curtains that must be used during, for instance, nap time. This paper highlights the significance of natural light in an indoor environment and its affect towards children's attitude and behaviour when learning. It suggests that the classroom be designed to support the needs of children by providing large windows that allow natural light to flow in. (Michaelidou Katerina, Academia.Edu)


Transforming the Learning Environment: Architecture

Transforming the Learning Environment: Architecture

Master Plan: 7.2 Indoor Destination (Pages 76-80). This document provides architectural ideas that incorporate nature into the indoor environment. It is clear that materials and activities are vital when bringing the outdoors inside to inspire children, however it becomes evident from this document that architectural design also impacts their learning. The idea suggested is the lookout tree which provides children with the opportunity to explore nature from a safe and familiar area, build their confidence to go outside and play more, look at elements of nature from various special viewpoints, recognize activities for different animals, and observe ecological connections between plants as well as animals. It's an outstanding idea that allows children to explore an indoor nature play area, with a large tree growing in the middle of it. The architecture of the room invites children to play. If there is a lot of room, children will be encouraged to run around, if there are ladders, children will be motivated to climb, if there are glass floors, children will be inspired to look down from a different perspective. If the floor or wall is a different texture, children will react to it, depending on how it makes them feel. If we can connect the importance of the room's design, the materials, the activities and the teacher's approach to learning, children will continue to excel in every developmental domain because they simply learn in the process of play. (Tony Bennett et al., Tamarack Nature Center Master Plan)


The Classroom As A Whole: Early Childhood Environmental Education Programs

The Classroom As A Whole: Early Childhood Environmental Education Programs

Nature encourages curiosity, observations and investigation. It provides children with a sense of place as they develop an intimate connection with their natural built environment. This resource provides the importance of the environment in a child's learning. It focuses on nature and the environment, including the program philosophy, purpose and development: respecting the child's culture (using food for play: considering that dried corn in the sensory table feeds the chicken), healthy and safety (if it is a toddler room, not bringing in small items which children can choke on), developmentally appropriate practices (respecting animals and nature by handling them with care). Nature can be integrated into math and music, by counting the number of petals on a flower or estimating the amount of birds that will approach the bird feeder. Children can use sticks or rocks to create musical sounds and combine them to create a concert. It can be included into all learning areas, thus enhancing all developmental domains in an enjoyable hands-on approach. (Bora Simmons et al., North American Association for Environment Education)


Children's Behaviour: Children's Indoor Environments

Children's Behaviour: Children's Indoor Environments

It is possible to use the environment to reflect the child's behaviour. Bringing nature indoors changes the way children behave in their environment and if teachers take the time to comprehend them, learning will also be natural. This article enhances our understanding of nature's importance, for example, if we trust the opportunities for play that loose materials in nature provide, we can offer a basket of stones and pebbles in the math area in the sure knowledge that children will count and sort them and if we see the natural beauty of real materials, we will provide skeleton leaves on a light table and plants in the book corner. Nature is connected to children's behaviour and if we alter their surroundings, it impacts their approach to play.
(Claire Warden, World Forum Foundation)


Nature Education in Preschool

Nature Education in Preschool

The Importance of Nature Indoors: It is clear that learning about nature outdoors happens naturally because children are physically placed in an environment where they are capable of being in contact with, for instance, plants and animals. However, it is important to understand that nature activities can occur inside the classroom as well. These include materials, as well as activities within the classroom. Materials and equipment can be provided, which include magnifying glasses, paper, clipboards, markers, binoculars and plants. Books are also a way for children to be exposed to nature because it is the first step towards their imagination unravelling to numerous ideas. These ideas can be formulated together and be put towards creating an "outdoor" atmosphere indoors. In addition, children can adopt a classroom pet so they can experience the responsibility of caring for an animal, plant seeds, nurture the flower and watch them grow.
*Using Nature to Support Children with Special Needs: This article provides suggestions and the importance of incorporating every child in activities which reflect nature learning. Some children may be sensitive to touching objects, however this should not prevent them from experiencing nature indoors. By providing materials, such as tongs or gloves, it gives children the opportunity to be engaged. (Debbie Handler, HighScope Extensions: Curriculum Newsletter)


Nature: The Health Concerns

Children need to be reconnected with the natural world. This document focuses on the health concerns involving nature. It specifies nature deficit disorder which lead to physical health problems including obesity, mental health problems and children's growing inability to assess risks to themselves and others. It targets four specific areas: health, education, community and environment. The outdoor play physically helps children, as they explore with their bodies through activities such as climbing, digging and running. By bringing nature indoors, beneficial educational opportunities occur since children have direct exposure to their learning. It also speaks of the barriers to natural childhood play, which include the limits outside the home, parental fears and negative attitudes of some authority figures who regard children's natural play as something to be stopped rather than encouraged. The disconnection with nature is becoming a global issue and if policy-makers, teachers, health practitioners, and families don't begin to make a change now, it will only affect the future of our children. (Stephen Moss, National Trust: Natural Childhood)