Playing (and learning) in the snow!

When the children arrived at school last Monday, they were incredibly excited to see our playground covered in snow!  They had read Willow and The Snow Day Dance by Denise Brennan Nelson on Friday, and all went home to follow the book’s directions on how to make it snow… so they felt some ownership of the winter scene that greeted them.

Normally in the Fours, we begin our day outside for about 30 minutes, but this day we stayed out for well over an hour and a half.  It was a beautiful day, and because we go outside every single day, our students are well-trained to dress properly for rain, cold or snow.

It was not until the children started to need the bathroom or to feel hungry that we felt the need to go inside.  At CCNS, we have the flexibility to vary our schedules based on the needs of the children as well as exciting events that might occur – and what could be more exciting than the first snowfall of the season?!

Were we “just playing” for an hour and a half at the expense of our scheduled activities inside?

Absolutely.  But, we were also…

  • discovering the physics of creating sledding paths in deep powder.  Why weren’t we going fast? Why wasn’t it slippery? How did this change as more children came down the path?  Why were some starting to go faster than others? 
  • practicing the negotiation and problem-solving involved with sled turn-taking.
  • finding ice in various shapes and thicknesses all over the playground.  What is inside this ice?  What happens when I drop it?
  • stirring, mixing and packing snow in our outdoor kitchen; creating recipes while learning about the properties of snow and how they can be changed.
  • exercising and strengthening our bodies as we climbed the big hill over and over again, trudged through the thick snow or tried to push our way down slides packed heavy with snow.
  • excitedly and descriptively articulating our discoveries to our teachers and each other.

And, importantly, we were enjoying the beauty of nature, breathing the fresh air and experiencing how highly our CCNS parents and teachers value being outside and having time to explore.

We have a wonderful, large outdoor classroom at CCNS that is ever-changing… from falling leaves or a new snowfall, to a new raised garden bed built by the Fours, to the playground redesign in the works that will add new natural features to make this incredible space even more inviting for extended play and discovery.

Giving children the opportunity to spend more time in nature has garnered a good deal of press recently, and a strong body of research stresses the importance of this kind of experience for children.  It is reassuring to know that the children of CCNS are already benefiting from a rich, natural environment and from a learning community that values this important play.

Dana M. Gorman

Educational Director


To read a few recent articles on the value of outdoor play and learning, click here, here or here!