Rushton Parish Council in Cheshire wanted to bring together a local school - Eaton Primary - with the Eaton village community. They ultimately decided that a large, open area was the best way forward; a place that would allow multiple children to play at one time, as well as boasting rustic features that would complement the bucolic surroundings. But with limited time and money, where to start? Furthermore, what would this area look like?
The UK forest schools programme is rapidly gaining momentum, and is fast becoming an increasingly popular and recognised method of teaching outdoor learning skills. However, as these designated sites can sometimes be somewhat remote from the main school building, there is usually a need to provide for some sort of an outdoor shelter or outdoor classroom facility for the children to both seek refuge from the elements and to be taught in. And as forest schools education is practised all year round, this building has to be used in all seasons - ideally with some sort of basic electricity, lighting and heating provision.
Play must infiltrate the learning approaches in our classrooms. Surreptitiously, if need be, it has to once again steal into our classrooms and become embedded in our outlook, our approaches and strategies. Why do we advocate play? Play captures within it the elements required for building the right attitude to learning. Fearlessness, risk taking, taking loss and failure in your stride, working as a team and the joy and humility in success.
Young children learn through their imaginations. They experiment with the world and people around them through role play and creative activities. While this is often done individually in playtimes and at home, schools can also harness the power of creative play in classrooms to develop well-rounded pupils.
There is nothing quite like visiting schools, nurseries and other childcare settings to gain ideas and inspiration. I’m always delighted when I get this opportunity. Sometimes, I am asked about good places to see. In my opinion it is not possible to find a “perfect” outdoor space. Instead I look for elements of good practice, which are worth reflecting upon and remembering. This might be how free flow play is set up in less than ideal circumstances. Or it could be how a muddy area has been developed with children fully involved.
The places that have truly got going with learning and play outside, perceive their outdoor spaces as ongoing works in progress. There is a continuous commitment to valuing and actively using an outdoor space as a place for learning and play. It is a mixture of ethos, physical improvements and careful thought about the variety and potential of a range of activities to happen in an outdoor space.
When visiting another school or establishment, these are my top tips:
Photo credit: striatic
One of the most important things for young people growing up today is the appeal of embracing change. The catch for educators in preparing students for the 21st-century workforce is how to get them to question and challenge our current understanding and practices.
In the past, what we’ve commonly referred to as the gaming disposition provides insight into this. If you consider the gaming industry − the hardcore gamers, those that play MMOGs (massively multiplayer online games) such as Final Fantasy and World of Warcraft, the surprising characteristic is that these individuals are almost exclusively bottom-line oriented. They want to be measured; they want to know how their abilities rate against others.