Early Childhood Educators' Perceptions of Play and Inquiry on a Nature Playscape
Play serves an important function in early childhood, and more specifically, play in nature provides an optimal venue for holistic development. Teachers play a critical role in providing and protecting these experiences for young children. This study aimed to understand and make more explicit the perceived benefits of a nature playscape from the perspective of teachers. Participants in this phenomenological study were preschool teachers at an urban Midwestern university early childhood laboratory school (n=13). Surveys and interviews were used to answer the central research question: What benefits do early childhood educators attribute to experiences in an urban nature playscape for children and teachers who regularly access this environment? Findings suggest that both children and teachers demonstrated more relaxed behaviors in the playscape than the classroom, that children's holistic development was supported within the playscape environment, and that the playscape affordances fostered freedom and autonomy that sparked meaningful play and inquiry.