Improvements to your school’s outdoor space can make break times better for students and teachers too.
A dull and uninspiring playground and unkempt school grounds can leave children feeling unexcited, or even lead to them misbehaving, at break times. Investing a little love into your school playground and making even simple changes to the outdoor environment can improve the space and the students’ behaviour. A National School Grounds survey found that 65% of schools believed school ground improvements encouraged learning and 73% found behaviour improved. It’s important for children to be stimulated both inside and outside of the classroom.
Are there any ‘problem areas’ and how can these be improved?
Problem areas are most often the ones which are marked as out of bounds, have fallen into disrepair or in which students are more likely to misbehave. Any areas that are restricted or unsafe tend to fall into this category. Problem areas will be different depending on the playground and the school environment. Once these areas have been identified, it’s time to think about how they could be improved
1. Using all the space
In some cases, making changes to the school grounds can be as simple as cleaning up any litter or areas with leftover materials. Cutting back overgrown plants and trees, and clearing spaces to create more space which the learners can actually use can make a big difference. Think about ways in which a space can be transformed. If there is only a small plot of flat grassland, how about planting a flower bed or using it to grow plants for science lessons? If the cleared area is really muddy, how about making a mud kitchen or dig pit? Schools should try to avoid having any ‘restricted’ areas in their outside space so that students can move freely in the outdoors during break times.
2. Zoning can affect playground behaviour
Creating zones for specific activities can be beneficial for schools. When it comes to outside space, most schools will have already separated areas for ball games and areas where ball games aren’t allowed. However, it could also be worth including zones to encourage different types of activities. Zones could include quiet areas with sheltered seating, nature areas with plants and flowers, and areas of the playground with grid games and play equipment. The playground surface is an excellent place for creating zones by using colourful Wetpour surfacing. Such spaces have been shown to increase physical activity, decrease bullying and reduce playground injuries.
3. Improving Play Equipment
Improving your school’s outdoor play equipment can have a big impact when it comes to engaging children and managing behaviour at break times. Children naturally want to play and are constantly looking for opportunities to do so. Old, outdated or broken equipment isn’t fun for anyone and it certainly isn’t going to get children playing or collaborating. A simple waterproof, child friendly storage solution can be filled with: skipping ropes, cones, soft balls and similar items can be exciting to primary aged learners. For schools with larger budgets, trim trails, dens, playhouses and creative play equipment can enhance the students’ experience of playing outside in the school grounds.
4. Walls and Artwork
If your school is surrounded by bare brickwalls, there’s definitely something that you can do to brighten those up! Walls which face the playground could be marked with coloured lines to create grid style games, or with numbers or letters to contribute to numeracy and literacy learning. Chalkboards could be installed on blank walls to allow children to practise writing numbers and letters. Other walls around the school grounds can be a perfect space for displaying student’s artwork or creating a mural together as a school. In some schools, each year group have contributed a painting for an outside wall, while others have designed a mosaic together.
5. Sensory Areas
Sensory learning is a really important part of child development and is a great way to engage young learners in nursery and primary school. Creating a sensory garden where children can experience different textures and play with different substances is a good way to make use of free space. Or how about going a step further and creating a ‘Secret Agents Outdoor Lab?’ A Secret Agents Outdoor Lab is a science and wildlife area which can include water play, sand play and areas for discovery. You can quickly create a space that improves both creative thinking and scientific learning as children explore and experiment.
Could your school grounds benefit from any of these improvements? At Pentagon, we’re passionate about improving outdoor learning experiences and we would live to hear from you today - simply contact us through the website!
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