A lovely letter in the TESS a while ago from Mary Jackson, who is development adviser with Learning through Landscapes (operating in Scotland as Grounds for Learning). There is growing concern that many children are being ‘raised indoors’ and that they are therefore missing out on a childhood rich in outdoor experience and healthy outdoor play and adventure. Reflecting on how Scottish teachers are making the most of Curriculum for Excellence through Outdoor Learning she comments, ‘some Scottish schools are already breathing life into their curriculum by taking it outdoors in inspiring and innovative ways.’ Too true!
Mary is writing to introduce us to a new global network of organisations who share a commitment to the development of school grounds for learning and play. The International School Grounds Alliance (ISGA) has been co-founded by Learning through Landscapes (UK), Evergreen (Canada) and Bay Tree Design (USA) and offers abundant resource and materials to stimulate and support creative school grounds design. There is an open invitation for any organisation or individual interested in joining with others to take forward this important work to visit the ISGA website : www.internationalschoolgrounds.org
Recently I was able to attend the launch of the The Scottish Government Go Play Outcome and Evaluation Framework and Play Scotland’s national launch of Getting it Right for Play.
There is a lot of emphasis on outdoor play presently and on building the capacity of staff who supervise and design outdoor play experiences. The Go Play Outcomes and Evaluation Framework was developed to articulate why play is so important for children in Scotland.
Play Scotland’s Getting it Right for Play toolkit is especially helpful for local authorities looking to improve the design and provision of spaces and places for play. I have enjoyed working with schools to pilot this material and find the process of evaluating play spaces and places with children as active participants particularly helpful.
There is also a very helpful and substantial summary of research about the benefits of outdoor play which can be found on their main website in the resources section.
This is a lovely little book, full of brilliant ideas for taking time out in nature to reconnect with ourselves, each other and the world. Rob Cowen and Leo Critchley provide lots of examples of how engaging with nature can even help us to step inside another dimension.
They write that ‘…there are forces deep in everyone’s subconscious that find a pure expression in the simplest of activities. This book explains why we should be taking the time to do them. It is born out of a wish to share our passion for our landscape and the contemplative, reflective pleasures and joys that were well-known to our grandparents, but which are in danger of being lost and forgotten. They will help us get back to a place where we all belong’.
Find out more about these creative outdoor learners:
Rob Cowen, Leo Critchley
Grounds for Learning have been working in Scottish schools on a project that looks at the impact of using natural environments and materials for outdoor play on children’s social, emotional and physical well-being. The aim of the Woodland Play project was to find out how woodlands in or adjacent to schools could be made accessible for regular play during break times. With support from Inspiring Scotland and the Forestry Commission, GFL embarked on a 2-year project with 6 Scottish primary schools that recognised the potential of their woodlands for play but who needed help to turn their aspirations into reality.
The results have greatly benefitted the whole community of the school in every way and a great new short film lets you hear directly from the parents, teachers, pupils and supervisors themselves. There is also a lovely series of case studies from Scottish schools:
Lenzie Moss Primary
St Ronan’s Primary
More information can also be found in a new resource from Learning through Landscapes called Woodland Play.
Scottish Natural Heritage are always coming up with creative ideas for how we can explore and enjoy nature on our doorstep. Their Simple Pleasures campaign materials include activities for young adults which use things easily found in nature to inspire enjoyable outdoor tasks.
My favourite idea is the bag dangle, a lovely collection of activities all collected together in a little booklet that is easy to hang on a bag or backpack for quick access. I have printed mine off and put them in a jar as separate activities – I have taken to delving in and picking one out to carry with me into my busy days – there is always an opportunity to try things out as I am travelling around.
Go and explore the Simple Pleasures section of the SNH website here. Try out some activities and post a comment or two here to let us know how you get on.
One of the most innovative, crazy and exciting projects (and teams of people) I have come across in a long while is Mission Explore.
The idea is to inspire, take part in, record and communicate as wide a variety of missions into the outdoors as possible. Some of these are themed, some progressive, some challenging, some creative, some totally mad !
Go visit the Mission Explore site: http://www.missionexplore.net/ – get together with some friends – start and complete some missions of your own. Some missions have strong links to curricular learning particularly for secondary schools. Creative, playful and adventuresome learning at its best !