The outdoor curriculum at DIGI Academies is centered on the creation of a multi-sensory environment; a place where children are free to explore the natural world, challenge themselves physically and enjoy the sense of freedom that being outside can provide. "We all had a playroom growing up. It was called outside." (Unknown)
We feel that young children today are lacking in the time, opportunity and freedom to be kids in a child-friendly, yet challenging outdoor space. At DIGI, we provide that space. We encourage the development of independence, expression, exploration, and fun. The children have the opportunity to play in a vegetable garden, hold ladybugs, dig in the mud or sand, run through the sprinkler or play in the snow. The children enjoy the playgrounds, open spaces, gardens and other sensory features throughout the year.
Since 2010 we have been a Nature Explore Classroom so our newest additions to the outdoor environment have consisted of our Nature Explore designated areas including:
1. The Theater
2. Tipi Building Area
3. Messy Materials Area
4. Nature Art Area
5. Sand and Water Area
6. Gathering Area
The outdoor space is divided into three general areas that encourage dramatic play, gross motor activities, and child-guided exploration. All areas are unique in the different learning opportunities they provide.
1. The Playground consists of climbers, swings, slides, grassy areas, outdoor art area, sandbox, tipi, cottage and children's theater.
2. The Deck is a Trek deck that serves as a gathering spot for outdoor activities, riding tricycles, daily picnic lunches, and as an extension of our three indoor classrooms.
3. The Front Yard consists of a fenced-in grassy play area with vegetable gardens, grapevines and a children's cottage for fantasy play. The garden area is utilized for its many native plants, and as a water source to attract birds and insects and wonderful spot for a picnic lunch.
During the warmer months of the year, our focus turns to the outdoors. We tend to come outside somewhat earlier, and many projects are moved outside onto the deck. Our art area is moved outdoors as well, and the children enjoy their "work" under the shade of the cherry trees in the nature art area.
Gardening is huge at DIGI, and many gardening-type activities take place on a daily basis. The children typically choose to water and harvest but often need more encouragement when it comes to weeding. The many different gardens provide a wealth of opportunities and experiences. The aesthetic beauty of the gardens helps to promote a creative atmosphere for playful learning. We look to our gardens for colors, textures, fragrances, birds, insects, and plenty of props for dramatic play. The children utilize what we grow in their play, as well as play in what we grow.
During our harvests, everyone at DIGI gets happily involved. We discuss the wonders of growing your own, versus buying at the supermarket. The children adore finding, picking and eating their own peas, raspberries, grapes, peaches or lettuce. We also grow and utilize herbs, pumpkins and flowers for various projects and arts and crafts.
The gardens were started in 1990 and have been growing and evolving ever since. Since 1990, we have made and enjoyed the following foods and projects from our own harvests: peach jam/pie, peach pit necklaces, potpourri, salads, jack-o-lanterns, pumpkin bread/pie, vegetable soup, dried and fresh flower bouquets, cherry cobbler and handfuls of fresh raspberries and grapes.