Playground makeover.
Beyond the Classroom

3 Tips to Update Outdoor Learning Spaces

When it comes to learning, the outside of your classroom is just as important as the inside.

Consider an outdoor playroom that spotlights child development. A school yard that provides sensory play, fantasy play, free play, and sports. A playground that concentrates on cognitive development as well as physical, emotional, and social development.

This isn’t the playground you grew up on.

Gone are the days of open lots, metal playground sets, and gravel surface parking lots. The 21st century playground has evolved to an innovative space that fosters collaboration and learning. It’s time to upgrade your playground into a 21st century learning space. Here are three ways to do that.

1. Imagine, envision, dream

The potential for creative learning is endless when designing or updating your playground. Imagination Playground, a company that produces foam building blocks for playing, transforms any indoor or outdoor space into objects, houses, cities, and scenarios. Anything your students can dream of, they can create. Focused on child-directed play, these blocks allow students the freedom and creativity to build unlimited settings and spaces. “When our children are playing with the blocks, they can discover so many things,” said Randi Abramowitz at Piper Preschool in Santa Monica, CA. “They create structures, working with a team of friends, relating different shapes to each other, building whatever their minds develop.”

2. Consider the elements

If new playground equipment is not within your school budget, think about using the elements just outside your door. Playgrounds are important educational tools. Natural materials can facilitate learning and connect students to the environmental world. Consisting of equipment with natural materials, they mimic ecological parks or nature parks. Walking trails can be good for exercise, and strategically placed giant rocks make good climbing structures in grassy areas. Tree stumps can be used for seat benches, even for a small theatre. Plant and nurture a garden, shade trees, and flowering plants. Fund-raise for heavier equipment, such as overhangs or a man-made pond. Organize a volunteer day to work, create mulch beds, and trim shrubs. Plan a clean-up day each week with your students. The bonus? This can be double as an outdoor classroom.

3. Keep it simple

Bigger doesn’t always mean better. According to a report in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, children experience more physical activity with portable play equipment. It encourages physical play and increases activity levels. Stationary equipment, such as swings, climbing structures, and balance beams are associated with lower intensity physical activity, according to the study. Consider bringing balls, jump ropes, hula hoops, and riding toys to your playground. Old tires make great mounds for forts and obstacle courses. Junk materials, such as wood & hammer and nails, can be great for building  under adult supervision. If your school already has a play structure, add a few of these additional items to supplement the equipment and to create an additional space. Fund-raise or work with your PTO for these smaller items. Researchers say the increased activity levels will also help children maintain a healthy weight.

A 21st century playground can be a unique and exciting learning experience for your kids. Let the fun-factor be your guide in creating one!


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