5 Ways to Use Outdoor School Playground Equipment
Finding time for outdoor play at school can be tricky, especially in an already over-saturated curriculum. However, studies show that the time children spend outdoors is currently well below recommended levels. For the most part, this is to due to an overabundance of technology at home, but the onus is also on schools to provide opportunities for quality outdoor activity.
Outdoor school playground equipment tends to remain redundant for most of the day. Used sparingly during breaktime and physical education, it is rarely implemented to its full potential. But, with children’s development depending heavily on the skills outdoor play can offer, understanding how play equipment can be integrated into lesson plans should be a top priority.
Outdoor School Playground Equipment in Maths
Though maths may not seem like a physical subject, a lot of mathematical concepts can be introduced and explored through outdoor play. Simple arithmetic and counting can be easily tackled through the use of playground or chalk markings, allowing children to visualise the numbers as they go. A great activity for reinforcing this skill is a scavenger hunt, where children must find the correct number of items to solve the problem (i.e. two pine cones + two rocks = four items overall).
The concepts of time and distance can also be introduced at an early stage through the use of play equipment. Children can measure the distance between varying points on an outdoor climbing frame or record the time it takes for their classmates to complete a lap of the school’s trim trail.
Outdoor School Playground Equipment in Literacy
Regardless of the age and ability of your students, the outdoors can be the perfect place to expand and strengthen language learning skills. From performance stages to actual outdoor classrooms, play equipment that promotes the learning of reading and writing can be invaluable to your children’s development.
For early-stage learners, the configuration of letters and handwriting can be practised through finger painting and playground chalks. For older or more advanced children, simple word and actions games can help them broaden their vocabulary and understanding of sentence structure. Pretend play can be a particularly useful tool as well, with den-making facilities and mud kitchens enabling children to recreate scenes from their favourite stories. This helps them deal with tricky concepts such as speech and empathy.
Outdoor School Playground Equipment in Science
Primary school science is all about exploring the way the natural world works, so where better to start than in nature itself? Although you’re only introducing basic scientific principles to your pupils, outdoor school playground equipment ensures that your learning approach is tactile and engaging.
Experimentation is at the very core of scientific learning and you should encourage your children to test proven theories for themselves. As a starter, sand and water play can provide children’s natural curiosity with a beneficial outlet. The concepts of floating, sinking, liquids, and solids can all be demonstrated through the use of a water table, while sand play uses active learning techniques to help children understand quantities and densities.
Outdoor School Playground Equipment in Music
Music lessons can sometimes become formulaic or lack innovation. By moving your class outdoors, you can use the inspiration of the playground to develop children’s creativity and musicality.
Playground chimes and shaker panels can be a great accompaniment to the sounds of the natural world. Asking children to compose short tunes that reflect or mimic the sounds they hear can help them link music to emotion and language. Compositions that are inspired by the weather or bird call can be a great place to begin.
Outdoor School Playground Equipment In ICT
Technology is often heralded as the enemy of outdoor play. But, through thoughtful integration, outdoor school playground equipment can actually augment ICT lessons. Since technology is now a ubiquitous part of a child’s life, finding ways to combine it with other areas of learning can be extremely beneficial. With more and more schools using iPads and tablets as a learning device, including them in outdoor play activities can encourage children to make the most of playground equipment.
One particularly innovative technique is geocaching, which is essentially an updated version of orienteering (similar to the likes of Pokemon Go). Using a geocaching app in the playground can inspire children to clamber over outdoor climbing frames and hunt the school grounds for various virtual items. While technology should never be relied upon as the sole form of outdoor learning, its presence can be the push that children need to begin exploring outdoor environments.
Where do you stand on outdoor play? Leave a comment below
Author Bio: Sam Flatman is an outdoor learning specialist and an Educational Consultant for school playground equipment provider, Pentagon Play. Sam has been designing playgrounds for the past ten years and has a passion for outdoor education. Sam believes that outdoor learning is an essential part of child development, which can be integrated into the school curriculum.