A $10,000 Clinton County Legacy Fund grant awarded to Clinton County Community Action Program Inc. will go to an outdoor classroom for Head Start children.
Head Start serves children, 3 to 5 years old, from economically disadvantaged families.
Head Start Director Zachary “Zach” Foster said research shows the benefits of being in nature and the value of outdoor play for children. But the amount of time children spend in nature and playing outdoors seems to be in decline, he said.
The Head Start outdoor classroom is intended to provide high quality educational opportunities for interaction in an outdoor setting.
“This project seeks to transform an under-utilized covered patio space that the children would only use on rainy days into a peaceful outdoor classroom setting with a mud kitchen, vegetable and herb garden, sound garden, creative space, discovery area and more,” Foster said.
It’s also anticipated that the space will encompass a variety of natural materials, loose parts, and real-world materials that encourage open-ended play, he added.
“The beauty of this space is there is no right or wrong way for the children to use it. It is truly their space to play, learn and create. This is also a place where the teachers can take the children outdoors to do lessons, read stories and have lunch to encourage greater exposure to the benefits of nature,” said the Head Start director.
Research has shown, he said, that being outdoors helps with reducing challenging child behaviors and cuts down on the amount of conflict among children.
That, in turn, would allow teachers more time to interact and play with children as they are not addressing those behaviors, further increasing the learning.
Clinton County Community Action’s Head Start program is one of nine recipients in the first cycle of grants awarded by the Legacy Fund Committee. The Legacy Fund consists of money the county obtained from selling county-owned Clinton Memorial Hospital.