In January I visited the preschool (where my son was enrolled more than a few years ago) to observe and talk to teachers. This school is located in a dense urban neighborhood and serves a diverse group of children. The outdoor space is a hotbed of activity. One of the favorite winter pastimes, according to teachers, is playing with rain: pouring, scooping, carrying water, 'cooking' with wood chips, making mud, watering plants.
The rainbarrel makes a good leaning post.
Below are some comments from teachers. I've included their 'wish lists' as well. You never know. on outdoor space
Outdoor space is critical.
Have a door directly to the outside so that children can go freely in & out; doors should be easy to open. Bigger kids can go up and down stairs to go outside.
Wish list: more land, huge garden, animals, kids' bike shed for afternoon rides, dirt mounds, outdoor amphitheater.
Independent exploration is important.
Things should be child-sized; not too many high walls; let children see and survey the entire room.
Children want to squeeze into small spaces.
Children should be able to open windows as long as it is safe.
Let the kids build their own world. Avoid Disney-fication.
on teacher's needs
Everything should be mobile so that the teacher can arrange the space as needed.
You always need more space than you think, particularly outside.
Storage for each classroom is ideal; it is nice to be able to see what you plan to use the next day.
Music spaces need soundproofing. In general, acoustic dampening is very important.
Wish list: display/presentation space for the whole school. For example, weekly, a language teacher could leave out materials and objects.
what can you do with a fence? 1. hang jackets!
2. nail on some bark
3. grow some plants
"Spaces should not feel precious." Above are planters made from repurposed utility pipes.
"Things should be child-sized." The bottom step of a residence doubles as a toddler seat. Dutch architect Herman Hertzberger was a master of the multifunctional stair.