OUTDOOR LEARNING

When developing a new playground, the imagining, designing and installing is the fun part. Often the first hurdle to jump over in the process is getting the funding together. At Playforce, we know that finding playground funding can be stressful, but with nearly 20 years of experience developing play spaces in schools, we’ve done more than our fair share of funding hunting.

Tranmere Rovers captain Steven Jennings has given a thumbs up to a new school playground when he called round to officially open it. The tough tackling midfielder, who has led his side into the play off positions this season, gave a rousing team talk when he attended the official opening at Our Lady and St Edward’s Catholic Primary School in Birkenhead. The new facility was designed, manufactured and installed by outdoor play experts Creative Play. The Chester-based family firm’s mission involved turning a “blank canvas” into a dream destination designed to challenge youngsters’ physical, motor and social skills.

“Brrr, it’s too cold, I’m not going out in that!”... “Yuk! It’s raining, I HATE getting wet, and my shoes aren’t waterproof.”… “I know they aren’t going to hurt me, but I’m scared of things that fly and buzz.”... “I don’t like getting dirty”. Familiar excuses they may be, but they rarely come from the mouths of children. Too often it is teachers who reluctantly drag themselves outside, feeling like fishes out of water and miles away from the comfort of the classroom.

Throughout the UK, outdoor learning is gaining a lot of popularity but there is still work to do before it becomes widespread across the country. At the moment Scotland seems to be leading the way when it comes to learning beyond the four walls of the classroom, with England, Northern Ireland and Wales currently quite far behind.

This past year I have been on an amazing learning journey. Over the summer, I had the chance to help shape the new space that I would work in this year and brainstorm all of the new possibilities it might allow for our students. Working closely with a team at my school, I was able to help transform a large storage closet into the new Imagination Destination at Episcopal Academy (I.D.E.A.) Studio. That process pushed me to think about my goals for the space and what I hoped it could scaffold and facilitate for students and teachers in terms of building new skills and mindsets and providing the resources and tools for empathy-driven projects.

Change4Life 10 Minute Shake Up with Disney is back for a third summer to encourage children to get moving ahead of the summer holidays with fun 10 minute bursts of physical activity. The initiative from Public Health England launches as a new Censuswide survey for Disney, Change4Life and the Amateur Swimming Association reveals that three quarters of children aged 5 to 11 (73%) want to do more physical activity, and 56% of children miss taking part in school PE lessons over the summer.

When you are outside, choose and use your language wisely!

In the beginning, human beings were not designed to spend hours each day surrounded by brick walls. They were naturally programmed for survival, for the great outdoors with its unpredictability, and each day provided naturally occurring learning opportunities which were a necessity if our ancient ancestors were to survive.

Nottingham Girls’ High School recently welcomed British Olympian Gail Emms MBE as guest speaker for their Sports Awards Evening. Helping to celebrate the athletic achievements of the school’s pupils, Gail spent time training with the school’s budding badminton stars, before addressing the audience and presenting the many awards.

In April 2013, the Government announced new funding of £150 million for Physical Education and sport. This funding should be used to improve the quality and breadth of PE and sport provision. The typical Primary school receives on average £9,250 a year and, schools have been very creative in which they have effectively used the funding. Initially Ofsted offered schools some examples on good use of the money, including:

Boots UK is inspiring children to protect their skin this summer and make sun safe habits that last a lifetime with the launch of the Soltan Sun Ready programme. The free sun safety education programme contains curriculum-linked teaching resources for children aged 5 – 14. Through Soltan Sun Ready, Boots UK is providing 1,000 free Explorer Packs to the first registered Primary schools, which include sun cream samples, hats and explorer notebooks. It is also running The BIG Exploration, a nationwide competition encouraging young people to get outside and have fun by searching for the country’s "most prepared adventurous explorer".

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