Book series now available.

Shifting frames of mind on indoor/outdoor programs

Pervading dominant discourses in Early Childhood have been around for centuries, but since the introduction of the National Quality Framework in 2012, a new wave of dominant ‘truths’ have emerged. Many of these new practices have their roots in social justice; from the desire to uphold children’s rights.

The word ‘agency’ appeared in 2012 through the National Quality Standard. Many educators had no heard of this word concerning children.

Discussion about its definition and implementation was rigorous, but sadly many practices veiled as agentic for children have become tokenistic, robotic and done out of obligation, fear (of not doing it and getting rated ‘Meeting) rather than intentionality or pedagogical conviction. 

One of these practices is the implementation of an indoor/outdoor program. 

My observations of the implementation of this practice have been largely positive, but I have also seen it implemented in ways that:

  • Allow children to ‘roam’ like free-range chickens
  • Isolate and separate staff with low numbers of children
  • Jeopardise supervision practices and therefore, the safety of children.

I am aware that initially many Regulatory Authorities were (and some still are) strong proponents and advocates of this practice, but the quality of programs is complex and contextual, and a practice that is agentic in one service may be dangerous in another.

Hence the importance of contextual critical reflection. Perhaps you could use some of the following critical reflection questions to guide your thinking?

  • Is your centre designed in a way that supports an indoor/outdoor program?  
  • Have you thought about the benefits or restrictions of an indoor/outdoor program?
  • Many educators believe that to offer an indoor/outdoor program, the door adjoining the two spaces must be left open. Do you agree? Or disagree?
  • Are educators in your centre planning intentional experiences in both spaces?
  • Do you have a separate plan for your outdoor environment?
  • Do you see the outdoor space as a place for children to ‘burn off steam’ and not an area for skill development and learning?
  • How do you ‘track’ (supervise) children as they move from indoors to outdoors? Have you implemented a system to do this?  How do you ensure that children experience a balanced program of a range of learning experiences?
  • Do you believe that a child’s choice of experience is more critical than the educator’s responsibility to ensure that children are undertaking a wide range of learning experiences?

Critically reflective practice occurs when educators ask themselves these kinds of questions.  

Let’s make 2020 a year to challenge and diffuse the dominant discourse on indoor/outdoor programs. Let’s become pedagogical skeptics and rethink our practices with intentionality and children’s rights as our compass.

Kerrie O'Neill, 2020.