Stimulate Your Child’s Curiosity

Outdoor Curriculum

Outdoor Curriculum






“Imagine a world in which all children grow up with a deep understanding of the life around them.  Where obesity is reduced through nature play.  Where anti-depressants and pharmaceuticals are prescribed less and nature prescribed more.  Where every school has a natural play space.  Where children experience the joy of being in nature before they learn of its loss, where they can lie in the grass on a hillside for hours and watch clouds become the faces of the future.  Where every child and every adult has a human right to a connection of the natural world, and shares the responsibility for caring for it.” -Richard Louv


The outdoor curriculum at Sunflower Preschool is centered on the creation of a multi-sensory environment; a place where children are free to explore the natural world, challenge themselves physically and enjoy the sense of freedom that being outside can provide. “The delights of the outdoors are among the deepest, most passionate joys of childhood.” (Dena Bawinkel)

We feel that young children today are lacking in the time, opportunity and freedom to be kids in a child-friendly, yet challenging outdoor space. At Sunflower, we provide that space. We encourage the development of independence, expression, exploration and fun. The children have the opportunity to play in a pumpkin garden, eat fresh-picked, and organically grown fruits and vegetables, catch and hold ladybugs, dig in the mud or sand, run through the sprinkler or play in the snow. The children enjoy the playgrounds, open spaces, gardens and other sensory features throughout the year.

sandboxsunflowerpreschool_lr-4029Since 2012 we have been a certified Nature Explore Classroom so our newest additions to the outdoor environment has consisted of our Nature Explore designated areas including: 1. The Theater 2. Tipi building area 3. Messy materials area 4. Nature art area 5. Sand and water area 6. Gathering area.

The outdoor space is divided into three general areas that encourage dramatic play, gross motor activities and child-guided exploration. All areas are unique in the different learning opportunities they provide.

1. The Playground consists of climbers, swings, slides, grassy areas, outdoor art area, sandbox, tipi, cottage and children’s theater.

2. The Deck is a 645 sq. ft. Trek deck that serves as a gathering spot for outdoor activities, riding tricycles, daily picnic lunches, and as an extension of our three indoor classrooms.

3. The Front Yard consists of a fenced-in grassy play area with vegetable gardens, grapevines, and a children’s cottage for fantasy play.   The Berm is our award-winning xeriscape mini-ecosystem.  This garden area is utilized for its many native plants, and as a water source to attract birds and insects and a wonderful spot for a picnic lunch.

tipi photoDuring the warmer months of the year, our focus turns to the outdoors. We tend to come outside somewhat earlier, and many projects are moved outside onto the deck. Our art area is moved outdoors as well, and the children enjoy their “work” under the shade of the cherry trees in the nature art area.

Gardening is huge at Sunflower, and many gardening-type activities take place on a daily basis. The children typically choose to water and harvest, but often need more encouragement when it comes to weeding. The many different gardens provide a wealth of opportunities and experiences. The aesthetic beauty of the gardens helps to promote a creative atmosphere for playful learning. We look to our gardens for colors, textures, fragrances, birds, insects, and plenty of props for dramatic play. The children utilize what we grow in their play, as well as play in what we grow.

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” -John Muir

benchsunflowerpreschool_lr-4051During our harvests, everyone at Sunflower gets happily involved. We discuss the wonders of growing your own, versus buying at the supermarket. The children adore finding, picking and eating their own peas, raspberries, grapes, peaches or lettuce. We also grow and utilize herbs, pumpkins and flowers for various projects and arts and crafts. The gardens were started in 1990 and have been growing and evolving ever since. Since 1990, we have made and enjoyed the following foods and projects from our own harvests: peach jam/pie, peach pit necklaces, potpourri, salads, jack-o-lanterns, pumpkin bread/pie, vegetable soup, dried and fresh flower bouquets, cherry cobbler and handfuls of fresh raspberries and grapes.

Another aspect of our outdoor curriculum is the berm mini-ecosystem. We use the berm as a teaching tool, as well as an additional part of our outdoor classroom. During the summer months, we often eat lunch in the recently added Coolaroo Sun Shades and the cool shady area next to the berm. The children are drawn to the berm to observe insects and birds. They also enjoy learning about native plants, gathering flowers, going on teacher-led scent and touch tours, and relaxing around the fountain area.

The outdoor curriculum at Sunflower honors the natural environment and the children who play there. The curriculum and the outdoor areas provide opportunities for learning and exploration. The teaching staff has an integral role, by encouraging active play, a sense of wonder in the natural world, and large blocks of uninterrupted play.

“All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants. -John W. Gardner