The Outdoor Classroom Project

The Outdoor Classroom Project is integrated into our school philosophy. In February of 2019, Saddleback Children's Center became certified as a demonstration site for The Outdoor Classroom Project. Please read below to learn how we incorporate The Outdoor Classroom philosophy here at Saddleback Children's Center. You can also learn more information about what The Outdoor Classroom is all about on this page. 

Check out SCC on the Outdoor Classroom Project Website

The Nature Explore Program

Nature Explore is a national nonprofit program which works collaboratively with a network of organizations throughout the nation to help nature become an integral, joyful part of children’s daily learning. In February of 2020, Saddleback Children's Center became a Certified Nature Explore Classroom.

Check out SCC on the Nature Explore Website

The Outdoor Classroom at SCC

At Saddleback Children’s Center, The Outdoor Classroom is incorporated throughout our program. The way we describe The Outdoor Classroom at our school is essentially, “Anything that can be done inside can also be done outside and when they are outside, we see that children are more actively engaged through sensory exploration and simply out of interest.” This merges well with our school philosophy, which is “Saddleback Children’s Center is a family atmosphere with a focus on educational excellence and the beauty of God’s creation.” We are also blessed that the Saddleback Mountains overlook our school with O’Neill park in our backyard, which allows us to extend our learning and exploration of the outdoors beyond our school to our community and the nature that surrounds us. 

Daily our classrooms have a regularly scheduled outside time, but beyond that, each classroom is encouraged to allow their children to have an indoor/outdoor choice as part of their regular routine. Each class might look slightly different as to how the indoor/outdoor choice is incorporated based on the needs of the children. You might see, for example, parents will sign their children into a classroom that starts the day outside. The teacher will open her classroom to allow the children to choose if they would like to go inside or outside with one teacher facilitating the indoor activities and one facilitating the outdoor activities. You might also see circle time or snack time outside either in our large grass area, which overlooks the beauty of nature, or our courtyard, which has its own beauty complete with a butterfly garden and a chicken! Additionally, our teachers will set up table-top activities or art activities on the table right outside their classroom door in the preschool courtyard where children can choose to go inside or outside.


Our physical environment is an ever-evolving beautiful part of our school.  We have two play yards, which we call our Outdoor Classrooms, that we utilize daily. Our outdoor spaces are adjacent to our classrooms to allow for indoor/outdoor choice. Our staff works together to take care of our outdoor space with the direction of our Outdoor Classroom specialist, Kristina Amante, who prepares the centers for the day and is always finding ways to make the space more useable and conducive to learning and exploration. The layout of our Outdoor Classroom is designed essentially like a classroom outside complete with centers. For example, we have a home living area, an outdoor art station with real art materials, manipulatives, sensory bins, etc. Beyond our centers, however, the outdoor space is truly an experience.

Our outdoor rules are set up in such a way to encourage safe risks and exploration with teachers facilitating as needed. Children are allowed to look under rocks for bugs, for example, and are encouraged to help in our garden. They are also allowed to take their shoes off in our outdoor space as we feel it is great for sensory development and simply put, feels good! We also teach them to be responsible for cleaning off their feet and putting their shoes back on when they are done, teaching self-help skills. Our children love to take it a step further and fill buckets of water with the spigot we teach them how to use. There are endless opportunities with a bucket of water, but a favorite activity around our school is simply digging a hole, filling it with water and splashing through the water with bare feet.

We are also fortunate to live in an area where we can enjoy the outdoors all year long. At our school, rain does not stop our teachers from taking our children outside. We grab our rain boots and raincoats and our children can experience the uniqueness that the rain brings. You might see puddle jumping or nature walks to explore the various creatures that make their way out in the rain. This is a great opportunity for learning in which we love to take advantage. As a whole, the children at our school thrive through the opportunity to learn from an outdoor experience on a daily basis. They learn how to respect their environment and each other as well as the creatures and materials in their environment. Since adapting The Outdoor Classroom Project, it has been observed that our children have become more productive and engaged when using their outdoor space.

What is The Outdoor Classroom Project?

From The Outdoor Classroom Project (OCP) website:

Check out SCC on the Outdoor Classroom Website

"The OCP is dedicated to increasing the quantity, quality, and benefit of outdoor experiences for children in early care and education programs through providing educational and consulting services on the value and design of engaging outdoor learning environments to teachers, administrators, and parents."

Characteristics of the Outdoor Classroom

  • Most activities that can be done indoors can be done outdoors. Some activities occur best outdoors; some can only occur outdoors.
  • Children spend substantial periods of time outside, and it is easy and safe for them to get there; they are free to move easily between the indoors and outdoors.
  • There is a full range of activities for children to participate in, including many activities that are traditionally thought of as "indoor activities."
  • The outdoor space offers a balance of areas for physically active and less active play.
  • While outside, children frequently have the opportunity to initiate their own learning experiences and activities, with teachers available to support them. 
  • The outdoor curriculum evolves from and changes with children's changing needs and interests.
  • Children experience nature in as many ways as possible. 

Click on the link to the left to visit the OCP website where you can learn more!