Whenever I pass a school, I have a sneaky look at their outdoor play area. Mostly, it is one grey space, dull, boring, and anything but enticing to spend any time in.
Yet for many children, particularly in the city, and even more particularly in areas of the city that are less affluent, the school playground may be the only regular outdoor play venue that many children experience. So why not make the most of it?
It is even more baffling that newly built schools, with beautiful designs and classrooms, with all the mod cons, tend to have a big fail when it comes to their outdoor area. As if the designer of these new schools purposefully forgot about the playground and just left it bare.
Yet school playgrounds are important for a number of reasons. They are there for children to recharge. With breaks for active play, they will learn better, feel better and also get some physical activity. It’s a win win situation.
Some schools have realised this and taken initiative: There are eco schools who make the school grounds greener with flowers, vegetable beds, herb gardens or even fruit orchards. There are others who have installed assault courses. Some schools have even embraced an outdoor learning philosophy and created an outdoor classroom. And why not, indeed, do all of this? Wouldn’t it be great if every school ground had some green spaces to breathe and connect with nature, some physical activity area, and if some classes took place outdoors?
It is not just a lovely idea. If you speak to children and young people in schools and ask them about what they would change, invariably the answer is that they’d like to create better play spaces. The available play spaces nearby may not be considered safe, they may be in a location which is difficult to get to, or they may simply not have much to offer. So it’s often the school grounds that are the only play spaces many children use, and given the opportunity, they will come up with amazing ideas of how to transform them into spaces that offer active play, natural features, interactive games and creative spaces.
All it takes is the time and space to think about it, and the funding to put it into place (and there are numerous avenues to source funding). It’s also an opportunity for parent engagement. So, how about your school? Could it do with a playground makeover?