Fine motor skills and gross motor skills are the focus of the physical exercises for early years children. While indoor activities support the improvement of the former, outdoor activities support the latter. Through our specially designed outdoor spaces and programmes at Huili Nursery Hangzhou, pupils can develop physical strength and coordination, build confidence in facing new challenges and explore new avenues of discovery, while also enjoying themselves in the process. We hope to support the children to grow into the best versions of themselves, inspired, intellectual, individual, independent and inclusive.
Let us follow the lead of Greg Pauline, our outdoor education coordinator, to find out more about the philosophy, design and purpose of our outdoor learning at Huili Nursery Hangzhou.
At Huili nursery, we are fortunate to have arguably some of the finest indoor facilities in the world. Each classroom is organised with purposeful learning opportunities seamlessly divided into areas that engage and challenge our pupils. The transitional indoor communal spaces continue this theme with meaningful learning zones that encourage exploration and questioning wherever you wander. In Huili, this learning continues the moment we step outside into our huge outdoor exploration area.
Our playground is purposely designed to initiate open-ended learning and allow our children to expand their imaginations and discover new ways to interact with their surroundings, their friends and teachers, and nature itself. The importance of outside learning is well documented, as is the effect that outdoor exposure will have on academic achievement later in school.
The responsibility to embrace the world
Properly guided outdoor exploration, as we have at Huili, prepares our children for a world of diverse environments, for a world that requires imagination and innovation, and for a world that needs more teamwork and positive collaboration. But, of course, it’s not just our minds that benefit from being outdoors; we need to be outside to thrive physically and emotionally, to stretch ourselves and to push further and discover that we can do whatever it is we set our minds to, that we can persevere and take manageable, guided risks that build us into the people that we are destined to become. Here in Huili, we are helping to guide the next generation of innovators, inventors, creators, and leaders.
The courage to brave the rain or snow
We must challenge ourselves, and this is true both for classroom education and learning outside, and that means even if the weather is not quite perfect (rain or snow), we must still have outdoor time. In Norway there is a saying, ‘Det , bare . This translates to ‘There is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothing.’
At Huili, when it is raining (or snowing), you will still find us all outside, and we will still be running, laughing, discovering and learning. How is it possible to learn about how the rain smells and how it feels on your face when you are in a classroom? How can we understand how the trees and plants we rely on exist, breathe and drink just as we do? Have you ever tried to jump in muddy puddles with your friends inside a warm, dry classroom? Have you ever teamed up with your classmates and had a snowball fight with your teachers indoors?
Practice the identity of being intellectual in outdoor activities
It is impossible. But these are all essential experiences that make us who we are. They make us resilient; they make us think and ask questions that lead to more questions that eventually lead to answers that begin the entire process again. Perhaps it is only a story, but the tale goes that the brilliant scientist Isaac Newton was outside under a tree when he watched that apple fall. We would live in a vastly different world if he stayed indoors.
As we continue to strive to move towards becoming an all-weather nursery, we will keep on with the excellent work we do inside our amazing classrooms and take our unique Huili learning concepts of distinct learning areas from our classrooms and reflect this in our outdoor provisions, mathematics, literacy, science, small-world, and role play which will sit alongside larger more permanent provisions that encourage gross-motor skills and fit in with the current recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO) that suggest that children of nursery age should take part in a variety of physical activities for at least 180 minutes (about 3 hours) each day with 60 minutes of which being moderate to vigorous intensity (WHO, 2019). We strive for healthy, fit, and active children with inquisitive minds eager to learn and have a positive outlook on life.
Shaping a shared future with responsibility
After all, it is in our shared vision that our children are at the heart of everything we do, indoors and out.