How to plan for more outdoor play and learning – in 3 steps
Posted on | Posted in Education
“Outdoor play is particularly beneficial during times of anxiety, stress, and adversity”
A recent article by Marguerite Hunter Blair and Anita Grant, chief executive, Play Scotland and chair of trustees, Play England, called for schools to plan for a significant expansion in outdoor learning.
The article reiterates the benefits of outdoor play on children’s physical and mental health and wellbeing. It describes how an increase in play-led outdoor learning in schools will have better outcomes for kids, while supporting physical distancing for adults and teaching staff.
“Getting children back in school doesn’t have to mean a rush into the classroom and access to outdoor play and learning should be an entitlement, not a privilege.”
Within the turmoil of the pandemic, the health and wellbeing of school children must be protected. As the new school year begins, children need to spend time enjoying themselves outdoors with friends. Following months of lockdown and limited social interactions, active play and learning is an outlet and a way for kids to readapt to the school environment.
For schools and education centres thinking about doing more outdoor play and learning, there are some important considerations. Time spent learning outdoors should be safe and fulfilling and requires the cooperation of kids and teachers. Schools need the right environment too.
How to plan for more outdoor play and learning next term
Although many teachers and play supervisors will relish the prospect of running lessons and play sessions outdoors, there may be some apprehension. Sessions run best with a clear structure, and training for teachers and school staff supports them in delivering engaging outdoor classes.
Organisations such as the Institute for Outdoor Learning provide training for teachers on outdoor learning. Courses give teachers and education workers the confidence and skills to run active sessions. The more comfortable staff feel, the more the kids will get from it.
Having outdoor lesson plans and a bank of ideas for outdoor games makes getting outdoors more practical. Structuring outdoor play makes it easier for staff to get started. With a clear plan, they can focus on keeping kids safe and enjoying themselves.
Websites like Play England have resources designed to help schools and community centres access outdoor play. There’s a wealth of lesson plans out there, not to mention gathering the ideas of your teachers, staff, and pupils.
Having a child-friendly outdoor space is the basis of your play and learning plan. There are the fundamentals of keeping kids safe and happy (secure fences, shade, and places to run around and sit down, for instance). But, having an engaging environment makes all the difference.
This could include a range of things. Sandpits, water play, climbing equipment and toys are typical for outdoor play areas. For something more unusual, you could install a garden, vegetable patch or insect corner. Getting kids involved in the creation of these areas connects them to their space.
It’s possible to create complete outdoor classrooms with seating, shelter, and chalkboards, or chalks on the floor. Many countries across the world are teaching outside in response to the pandemic, and the UK doesn’t need to miss out on this. With the right shelter, kids can comfortably enjoy outdoor lessons for many months of the year.
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