Developing a school ground for play and learning is not a one-off event. It needs to be integrated into the life of a school year on year. This can involve quite a mindset change. It’s not simply a physical change to the landscape but involves readjusting the curriculum to take account of maintaining the grounds. When done well, this is a participative process which fully involves all the children and capitalises on the skills of the staff and local community. It is real world learning.
I’ve blogged about Inverallochy School several times as this school has embraced the changes and are fully committed to continuing this long term process. Three years ago, the grounds were a large waterlogged playing field and a couple of tarmac play grounds, one with a trim trail and playground markings. You can see a photo in this blog post.
Since 2010, the school community has made a monumental effort to change their grounds. It was lovely to go back and see how the school has further developed their ideas since I lasted visited a year ago.
In the photo below, this is the area for playing football. Around the sides are seascape murals which give you a clue to the school’s coastal location. The pebble dash was a nightmare to paint effectively, especially with the amount of salt damage from the sea. So instead they spray painted the sea.
Again, because of the weathering that happens, the school has worked out, through trial and error, that the best approach is gloss painted murals mounted on marine plyboard. All the ships, fish and other sea creatures have been created this way by the children.
In the background, you can see the “green wardrobe.” This storage shed was recently painted according to the winning design. The children have painted everything!
The resources for the sandpit are stored in this robust container. I love the design! Very apt with a gold padlock and chain. The sandpit remains a popular play area. It is big enough for the whole school to fit inside – a 32 tonne sandpit! There are another couple of shed and containers which means that resources for outdoor play are easily accessible by all.
There is also an indoor cupboard. On one side are traditional toys which are PE-type resources such as hula hoops and bean bags. Then on the other side are these bundles of sticks and tarps for den-building. It’s quite a contrast!
The school gets out of hours visitors, not all who have been kindly in their intentions. The vandalism has not deterred this school. Interestingly, there are various resources which are left out all the time. This includes wooden disks and stumps which children freely move around.
As you can see there is quite a collection of loose parts. The children really use the tyres in different ways, including being rolled around inside them.
Every time I visit the school, the boat has stuff inside it! It is a much loved resource. To see what was there last year, have a look at this blog post.
The children now have access to the playing field all year round. Whilst this is creating muddy areas, you can see that the children love and use the whole grounds.
Below is the seating area in the “jungle.” Two years ago over 250 trees were planted in this corner of the playground. Again, through experimentation, they have worked out which trees are thriving and have planted more of these native species. They have also discovered that paying out more money for larger “half stand” trees works better. These trees have a much higher survival rate (you can see an avenue of such trees in the background of the sandpit photo earlier in this post).
The school has lots of ugly wire fencing which is now subject to many makeovers. In the photo below you can see the fishing nets and also bamboo screening. The bamboo is going to be put around all the fencing to soften and naturalise the grounds.
The planters are used for growing vegetables and flowers. And behind the white wall is a lovely surprise…
Yes! A mud play area! This is very popular with the nursery children who share the school grounds with the rest of the school. They do not have a designated outdoor space. So on Thursdays when they are outside for the full session, they get a chance to play with the older children.
This circle feature is also popular with nursery children for different activities. Though having such a huge play area means children have plenty of space and do spread out when playing daily outside. The children at Inverallochy know they school promotes outdoor play and learning. There are plenty of all-in-one suits – warm winter ones as well as the standard waterproofs!
The amount of activity can easily be missed. You have to really take time to observe and absorb what is going on. For example, on this bamboo feature are shell mobiles.
As you can see, they are well worth a closer look…
In terms of facilitating play, Inverallochy Primary School has made considerable progress too. All children can play in any area of the ground, including the playing field all year round. This does create more mud and mess but the children like and value the opportunities this brings. Those children who want to play in the sandpit and on the playing field know that they need to bring wellies to school for this purpose. There is no segregation of children either by age or activity.
Back inside, the productivity continues. The janitor made the wooden and plyboard base for this mosaic which the Eco Club children are creating for the school entrance. It is one of three pieces planned.
I hope you have enjoyed this tour of Inverallochy School and its much-loved, used and cared-for grounds. You may well hear more in weeks to come as I’ll be visiting several times this term as part of a literacy project – more about that later.