Teachers from across the state to attend Partnership’s ‘Summer Summit’

 

 

Child care centers across Randolph County are reimagining their outdoor areas by replacing large paved surfaces and traditional playground equipment with vibrant, intentionally-designed learning and play opportunities. The new outdoor areas feature safe, ready-made access to green places and engagement with nature.

Early childhood educators from neighboring counties are taking notice and looking to draw inspiration.

In conjunction with the Natural Learning Initiative NC State University College of Design and local child care centers, the Randolph County Partnership for Children is hosting the third annual ‘Summer Summit’ on Thursday, July 24. Participants will tour the outdoor environments at four child care centers and learn how more than a thousand children are embracing healthy eating and enjoying outdoor, natural play. Representatives will also lead a lunch-and-learn segment addressing how well-designed outdoor environments are combating childhood obesity.

Last year’s Summit brought more than 80 educators from 11 counties. As outdoor environments continue to develop across the county, an increasing number of educators are looking to Randolph to learn more about how they can transform outdoor areas in their counties.

“Outdoor environments that are fun, exciting, stimulating and safe promote children’s development and natural curiosity to explore and learn through first-hand experiences,” said Pauline McKee, executive director of the Partnership.  “We are proud to share the innovative work underway in Randolph County.”

Improving natural outdoor learning environments is a key focus of the Partnership’s work with the Shape NC Initiative. The design of outdoor learning areas is evidence-based, a concept that has emerged over the last decade, and promotes the importance of the natural environment in the daily experience of all children, creating a foundation for healthy development. Parents, children, staff and the Partnership work together, through a series of interactive meetings, to develop and design the components of the outdoor learning area.

So why is outdoor learning considered so important?

According to research studies, children today spend less time playing outdoors than any previous generation, so it’s no wonder the percentage of preschool children who are overweight has more than tripled in recent years. Encouraging children to get outside, get moving, and connect with the natural world are all ways the Partnership is working to reverse this trend.

Outdoor environments are designed to increase children’s level of physical activity, their time spent outdoors, and their awareness of vegetables, fruit and healthy foods. Best practice design of OLEs incorporates trees, shrubs, vines, flowers, grasses, edible fruits and vegetables—to connect children with nature and diversify their outdoor experience.

This year’s tour includes visits to It’s a Kid’s World in Randleman and three Asheboro-based centers, The Growing Place Child Care Center, Shepherd’s Way Day School and Trogdon’s Day Care. Each of these sites is in various stages of construction and enhancement of their outdoor environments. Some of the unique features participants will see are a bird sanctuary, rock garden, infant park, amphitheater, tire tunnel, beaver hut, nature trail and many other ways for children to be physically active.

The Partnership is a regional hub for Shape NC, and through funding assistance from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation and the Randolph Hospital Community Health Foundation, is spearheading the creation of outdoor learning environments to promote the importance of the natural environment in the daily experience of all children. With the help of community partners, resources and volunteers, curriculum is moving outside, and children are learning about and eating more fruits and vegetables and increasing active and imaginative play.

If you would like to see the work that is underway, please register with Andee Edelson at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . There is no fee to participate.

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