Just before the summer holidays began, I was back up at Inverallochy School. Three years ago, the children and staff began the process of developing their school grounds. When they began, the grounds looked like this:
And now they look more like this photo which is taken from almost the same spot!
It was a lovely day and so I thought I would see what was going down at lunchtime outside. The following pictures depict a lovely scene which typifies their approach to play. Enjoy the show!
The bore pipes remain hugely popular and get moved all over the grass and playground. The children use the half pipe as a seat, a rocker and it also gets balanced vertically upright and used as a tiny cubby. It is a much-loved piece of kit.
Below you can see the nursery area. It is not sectioned off, so children of any age can access the equipment. Likewise, the nursery-aged children can access all the the school grounds.
On Thursdays, the nursery children spend the whole session outside from start to finish. This allows for children to explore at leisure and also to get to know the older children. The nursery staff are therefore around during the lunchtime. The girl in the photo below spent ages investigating this puddle. She put her foot in it to measure the depth and also enjoyed just looking at it.
The mud kitchen is right beside the muddy puddle. It is a great way of repurposing unwanted items such as pots, pans and even a school table. The water barrel hand pump provides a ready supply of water to add oodles of possibilities to the play.
Here’s a view from the mud kitchen. In every direction there’s something interesting going on…
The 32-tonne sandpit is like having a real beach at the school. Every time I visit something different is going on down there.
The older children play hard and well too. There’s a tarmac space for football, but generally the children play in various different parts of the ground. After the summer holidays, the school will be auditing the children’s perceptions of the grounds and mapping different activities. This will be a repeat of the initial audit and mapping exercise undertaken three years earlier so that the impact of the grounds developments can be observed.
If you look carefully behind the group in the picture above, you will see that much of the grass has been left to grow long. Not only does this save time mowing, it is better for wildlife and increasing biodiversity. Again, this simple measure has increased the play value too. The children crouch and hide and play all sorts of games there.
And sometimes it’s nice just to be able to hang out with your friends!
During wet weather, the children are given a choice as to whether they go out to play or stay inside. There are always plenty who prefer being outside. The children bring wellies for playing on the field which does get very wet and muddy especially during the winter months.
There is one adult who supervises outside. It is a classroom assistant who has a nursery nurse qualification. She is extremely good at facilitating the children’s play. I’m sure her approach contributes to the overall feel good factor about the lunchtimes.
I hope this gives you a flavour of the potential of a playspace for children in primary school too. I’d love to know about any other positive examples or just your thoughts on this type of play provision within primary schools.