The children exploring the materials for the first time
It happened as much by chance as by intent. Every year, Grounds for Learning and Exxon Mobile have a small project called "Greener Grounds" for a few schools in Fife and NE Scotland. There is usually a theme. For example, one year it was numeracy outside, the next it was a film project and this year the focus was on natural play.
The materials were moved freely around the playground and grass area
Two staff members, a teacher and a classroom assistant (who also does other jobs including playground supervision) attended a course back in June about nature play. This covered the basic principles of play, the concept of free play especially in a natural setting and the practicalities of developing an outdoor space for improving play. This was followed up by a couple of support visits to the schools involved.
We used a mix of natural materials and sale price or scrap items. I've blogged about the purple tubes before
At Crimond School, the Primary 1-3 class were developing the play project. I went along one morning in August with my portable playground containing a variety of natural and scrap loose parts.
We began with a quick discussion about practical aspects of playing with the stuff I had brought along. The bottom line was simply, "be sensible". A couple of reminders about how to use ropes and sticks were also raised as part of this discussion. And then the children played.... and played.... and played.
This child has used the sticks as tent pegs
Whilst the children played, the school staff and myself had ongoing discussions about the play we were observing. The children were clearly highly engaged. There was lots of cooperative work and socialising happening. There was also many children happy to work alone on specific projects.
Initially the children ignored the suitcase of materials but when they saw how easy it was to make a den, they never looked back!
The creativity demonstrated by the children as they solved practical design and construction problems was very high. We saw and heard much imaginative play as children transformed wood cookies into X-boxes and created shops from sticks and crates.
If you notice the containers that I had stored materials in are also used - upturned buckets, etc.
From this session, the children were highly motivated to have this sort of 'stuff' at their school. They compiled lists of the materials they particularly enjoyed and then wrote to local companies to ask for their scrap materials.
Rope is extremely useful and well used
The story continues in the next blog post...