Learning in the Playground – How Outdoor Play helps tackle Pandemic Disruption

Here we explore how learning in the playground can help mitigate the impact of the pandemic on academic progress.

As schools across the UK look for ways to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on academic progress, ideas range from lengthening school days, offering holiday schools and implementing a wide range of catch-up classes. Amongst these interventions, schools should also consider the role of the playground in addressing some of the key learning skills that may have regressed over the last few months. Here, we look at how we can address this through outdoor play.

The opportunities in the playground

Provide opportunity for collaboration

Since March 2020, the opportunities for children to collaborate have been limited due to long periods of isolation and social distancing. But with paired and group work being important classroom practice, children need these collaborative skills to learn more effectively, especially when trying to catch up on missed work and reach their true attainment targets.

We can revive rusty collaboration skills in the playground with play equipment that requires children to work togetherPlayground activities that encourage small teams of children to compete, work together to achieve a desired outcome, or get from a start point to a finish line as a group are all excellent ways of encouraging collaboration. They require children to work together to find the best actions, come up with solutions and help each other navigate different obstacles. Sports pitches and Trim Trail courses are both examples that encourage group play.

Focus on communication

Peer to peer communication is vital to successful learning. However, children may have had little opportunity to develop it through the pandemic. Refreshing and enhancing skills such as turn-taking, listening, questioning, negotiating and presenting, has to be a priority for schools over the next few years. For younger children, the chance to do so comes from the much-loved playground activity of role play. During role play, pupils can invent a multitude of different situations, taking on the role of real and imagined characters.

Whilst it comes naturally to children, they prefer to do it in the freedom of the playground. At the same time, the amount of role play that takes place and the quality of the interactions are reflective of the facilities and resources on hand. Providing props and settings that inspire children helps take their imaginations to different places. It is important to make the most of these opportunities for developing communication skills.

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Encouraging creative ability

Over the recent lockdowns, many children have spent more time indoors sitting behind screens. Therefore it’s important for schools to focus on reigniting their creative passion. Facilitating creativity is often best achieved when giving children the freedom to produce something new. The time when children have the most freedom to be creative is during break times, when they are outdoors.

By providing pupils with the right outdoor resources to encourage and foster creativity. These include resources for art and design, for building structures or making camps. Musical instruments can also boost creativity, and whilst needing little in the way of skill, they provide endless ways to create unique rhythms and beats.

Desire for personal achievement

Personal effectiveness covers a range of skills that pupils need to manage their workloads and learning. For example, setting themselves targets and goals, segmenting larger projects into manageable chunks and developing resilience and determination. Setting targets to do a lap of an obstacle course or to cover a set distance is a great way this can be taught in the playground.

Creating playgrounds to support the cause

Schools are under pressure to help pupils recover from the disruption of the pandemic. As well as to address any regression in the learning skills that are so important to achievement. While interventions can be implemented in the classroom, school should not underestimate the value of outdoor play can help in mitigating the impact of school absence on learning. With the right playground equipment and ample time to play, there is real potential to gain lost time quickly. Children are, after all, very quick learners.

At Playcubed, we are on hand to help create a bespoke outdoor learning space that encourages learning in the playground. We’d love to hear from you on 01322 279799 or you can contact us online here.

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