ERG SES D 11, Pedagogy and Education
The social, political and educational framework of modern societies has been changing and it’s fundamental to think how childhood experiences are being affected by the growing technology, consumerism and competition. Studies show that children’s play has assumed an increasingly structured nature, confined to closed spaces, controlled by adults, where the action possibilities are limited (Bilton, 2010). Due to a growing culture of fear about the potential dangers to which children may be subjected, playing outdoors seems to be disappearing from childhood experiences, being replaced by lifestyle habits increasingly sedentary (Gill, 2010).
According to several studies, outdoor play is very important for learning, allowing for cognitive, social, emotional and physical development (e.g space and body knowledge, problem solving, creativity, cooperation) (Fjørtoft, 2004; Rissotto & Tonucci, 2002; Waters & Maynard, 2010).
The recognition of the importance of outdoor play has been already defended by important pedagogues from the twentieth century. Froebel, McMillan and Montessori are examples of key figures linked to the historical background of outdoor play and to the evolution of early childhood education in modern societies (Libório, 2010; Tovey, 2007).
Despite the growing body of scientific knowledge related to the importance of outdoor play and the strong background associated with important pedagogues in early childhood education, it seems to be difficult to observe quality outdoor practices in Portuguese early childhood settings. Although the official Portuguese documents (Ministry of Education, 1997; Portugal, Carvalho & Bento, 2016) that guide ECE recognize the outdoor space as an educational environment, where many opportunities for learning emerge (in the pedagogical guidelines for day care, opportunities for movement, sensorial exploration, contact with natural life and socialization are viewed as vital dimensions for young children’s development) it seems that there is a gap between what is recommended by theories and normative documents and what is implemented in practice. In Portugal the valuation of outdoor playing experiences is reduced and there is little scientific research in this area. The outdoor spaces in childhood education seem to be little invested, exhibiting a reduced and standardized supply of stimuli (Figueiredo, 2015; Neto, 2005). The pedagogical practices are still very focused on what happens inside the classroom and the time spent outside is reduced, serving as an "interval" to the “true” educational activities.
In this line of thought the ongoing PhD research is focused on the importance of outdoor play for learning and development of children, aiming to contribute for innovative practices in this domain.
The project seeks to answer three main questions: (1) “what is the legal and pedagogical framework regarding outdoor play in educational settings?”; (2) “how are outdoor spaces thought and experienced by practitioners in early childhood education settings?”; (3) "what are the pedagogical benefits of the outdoors?”. This project considers the Portuguese reality and it is focused on the service provided for children from zero to six years old.
Since the project is still being developed, in this presentation we will explore only one of the research questions, related to the pedagogical benefits of the outdoors. We aim to identify opportunities and constraints for the development of pedagogical practices outside and to explore positive outcomes that might emerge, according to the educational goals for day care.
Bilton, H. (2010). Outdoor learning in the early years. Management and innovation. Oxon: Routledge. Coutinho, C. (2011). Metodologia de investigação em ciências sociais e humanas. Coimbra: Edições Almedina, S.A. Figueiredo, A. (2015). Interação criança-espaço exterior em jardim de infância. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Universidade Aveiro/Portugal. Fjørtoft, I. (2004). Landscape as playscape: the effects of natural environments on children’s play and motor development. Children, Youth and Environments, 14(2), 21-44. Gill, T. (2010). Sem medo. Crescer numa sociedade com aversão ao risco. Cascais: Princípia. Joyce, R. (2012). Outdoor Learning. Past and Present. Berkshire: Open University Press. Libório, O. (2010). Investigar com crianças na formação inicial em educação de infância. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Universidade de Aveiro, Aveiro/Portugal. Ministry of Education (ed.) (1997). Orientações curriculares para a educação pré-escolar. Lisboa: Ministério Educação. Portugal, G., Carvalho, C. & Bento, G. (2016). Orientações Pedagógicas para a Creche. Lisboa: Ministério da Educação e Ciência e Ministério da Solidariedade, Emprego e Segurança Social. To be published in 2016. Rissotto, A. & Tonucci, F. (2002). Freedom of movement and environmental knowledge in elementary school children. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 22(1), 65-77. Stake, R. (2012). A arte da investigação com estudos de caso (3rd ed.). Lisboa: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian. Tovey, H. (2007). Playing Outdoors. Spaces and places, risk and challenges. Berkshire: Open University Press, McGraw-Hill Education. Waters, J. & Maynard, T. (2010). What’s so interesting outside? A study of child-initiated interaction with teachers in the natural outdoor environment. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 18(4), 473-483.
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