Original Research Paper
Characteristics of Optimal Early Childhood Centre Outdoor Environments: Spaces and Places in which Children and Adults Want to Be
By Cheryl Faye Greenfield
Manukau Institute of Technology, NZ
Greenfield, C.F. (2012). Characteristics of optimal early childhood centre outdoor environments: Spaces and places in which children and adults want to be. NZ Research in Early Childhood Education Journal, 15, 42-60.
The purpose of this project was to investigate what teachers deemed optimal in their provision of an outdoor environment. This research involved 46 teachers from 15 early childhood centres in the North Island of New Zealand. The findings reported in this paper will enable those responsible for outdoor design and provision to better understand the characteristics of optimal early childhood outdoor settings. The study was underpinned by the belief that children have the right to access optimal outdoor early childhood environments (Bilton, 2005; Frost, 2006; Greenfield, 2007a; Rivkin, 2000; Tovey, 2007). Research procedures included a questionnaire and photographs of spaces and places early childhood teachers thought were optimal in their outdoor environments. The teachers’ responses showed substantial agreement on what contributes to an optimal outdoor environment alongside features unique to that centre/community context. Eight key characteristics of optimal outdoor provision emerged from the findings; most salient were “relationships” and “opportunities, two threads which were clearly woven through the characteristics identified. The research further recommended a series of questions which early childhood services could use to self-review their outdoor area and their provisions for outdoor play (Greenfield, 2010).
Key words: Outdoor environments, pedagogy, self-review, outdoor design
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