Art in the Outdoor Classroom

Recently I attended an Outdoor Classroom conference at Child Educational Center in Pasadena, and took photographs of their outdoor areas. These photos illustrate just some of the ways CEC artfully integrates drawing, painting, sand tray, natural collage, 3-D sculpture and mud pit activities into their outdoor curriculum.


Art and outdoor sensory play provide children with delightful ways to experience the joy of self discovery, especially when these activities are child initiated and teacher supported. Many wonderful sensory activities like making mud pies would be prohibitive indoors but are unforgettable outdoor experiences. Sensory experiences with dirt, leaves, pinecones, sea shells, feathers, wood and other natural materials help children develop a positive relationship with nature and help them appreciate the wonders of earth science.

Here’s my favorite excerpt from a handout provided at one of the conference workshops, it is credited to Dr. Bruce Perry, author of Shared Discovery – Shared Learning.

Curiosity and Brain Development
Curiosity………leads to Exploration
Exploration…..leads to Discovery
Discovery…….leads to Pleasure
Pleasure………leads to Repetition
Repetition…….leads to Mastery
Mastery……….leads to New Skills
New Skills…….lead to Confidence
Confidence…..leads to Self Esteen
Self Esteem….leads to Sense of Security
Security……….leads to More Exploration

I hope these words and photographs inspire your own curiosity and exploration, and help you discover new ways to integrate art and sensory play into your outdoor classroom.

Materials Shown Here:
Natural Recycled Drawing Paper, 9NCS
Portable Drawing Boards, SCRIB
Colored Masking Tape, NMASK
Sea Shells, SHELLS
Natural Feathers Classroom Pack, NATURAL
Wood Geo Shapes, 1000W
Wood Craft Rounds, WOOD50
Colored Wood Cubes, CWCB
Colorations Liquid Watercolors, set of 8 – PLWS
Super Safe Plastic Droppers, 12SSD
Hanging Outdoor Double Easel, HDE

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3 thoughts on “Art in the Outdoor Classroom

  1. Fabulous! Your pictures and video are inspiring. I love the use and organization of the materials. My students are currently planning outdoor art prop boxes so this post will serve as a useful resource to them. Thank you!

  2. This is a big idea to give children a chance to explore art and express their creativity in a giant-size way. I worked in advertising and knew that billboard companies would print overruns for backup and ultimately throw the extras away. I would ask for the discards, take them home and tack them to the fence with the blank backs showing, and let my children create mural masterpieces. They loved the novelty of this new giant-size art medium.Paper billboards consist of individual panels that are about 4 feet by 5 feet. Avoid the vinyl billboards, because they don’t hold paint and markers well. Poster paints work best because they cover big areas.Just tack or push-pin these panels backwards on a big flat surface, such as a fence or wall, and let the children go to town. The whimsy of this new, giant-sized art medium will, in itself, challenge and stimulate a child’s creativity in new ways. When they stand facing this big, empty canvas, they'll be letting their creativity flow as it's never done before. And it’s a great way to get them outside in the fresh air when the weather’s nice.Sid BergerThe Creativity Institute

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