We know that children learn through play. In a time where it seems the classroom is increasingly constraining, so too is the area relegated to break times- the playground.
Over the years it seems that more and more playgrounds have features removed for safety reasons, or are shrunken by school expansions and portables. All that remains is a postage stamp of soccer field and pavement. Students sit and use their various electronic devices with minimal physical activity, interaction, and imagination. When I was in elementary school my playground was very interactive: climbing structures, sand boxes, giant logs, climbing trees, stone boulders, and other natural features. We learned about barter through the exchange of pretty rocks and feathers, and territory- drawing up contracts to see who would get the ‘big rock’ this recess. We observed the decay and insect life found under an overturned log, and saw how leverage and teamwork could help us move a larger log to make a fort. All this to say that I believe given the right natural area to explore, children will invent their own opprotunities for learning. Natural playgrounds do not have to be ‘dangerous’, with the right amount of oversight and planning the playground can once again become a place of imagination, creativity, and learning.
Here are some of my favourite natural playground inspirations.
I’ve been lurking over at Teacher Tom’s blog for way too long admiring their outdoor classroom.
Pinterest is another source of never-ending inspiration for natural playgrounds, I have a board where I gather images here. Check out some of my favourite ones below.