- Associated Press - Monday, September 28, 2015

MINOT, N.D. (AP) - Three little boys at Jefferson Early Childhood Center raced for the gigantic box full of sand and shovels earlier this week.

All the kids were looking forward to making use of the new outdoor classroom, said Karen Knowles director of the Minot Head Start program.

Knowles obtained a $20,000 grant from the Minot Area Community Foundation that paid for construction of the classroom, which includes all of the “stations” that are in a typical Head Start classroom.

There is a gathering area, where a teacher can read to children in the great outdoors. There is a building center, where kids can play with blocks. There is an art center, complete with an easel. There is a music center, where children can play a variety of instruments. There is a sensory table, where kids can play with water and sand. Pouring water over the sand on the table acts like a river bed.

“Each class should be out here twice a week,” Knowles told the Minot Daily News (https://bit.ly/1FwrN2R ).

There are 95 students in the building. Special needs students in a Minot Public Schools preschool program will be able to use the outdoor classroom as well.

Knowles said studies show that being outdoors is beneficial for children. She is hoping to see a decrease in bad behavior, increased attention span and better academic performance in science and math.

“Kids don’t get to spend enough time outdoors,” said Knowles.

Knowles learned about outdoor classrooms at a conference she attended and always wanted to have one at the Head Start.

Volunteers from Minot High School-Central Campus Plus and from the Minot Air Force Base helped to construct the various outdoor stations. The Minot Park District provided trees, which have also made the outdoor classroom a relaxing green space for the children to learn in.

Knowles said the outdoor classroom is also intended for year-round use, so children will be able to learn outdoors in the winter as well as the fall, spring and summer.

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Information from: Minot Daily News, https://www.minotdailynews.com


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