Natural Playgrounds: Thinking Outside The Postage Stamp

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.

http://teachertomsblog.blogspot.ca/2011/06/our-new-outdoor-classroom.html

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.

Look at this amazing water feature. Students could build damns to learn about erosion, learn how a hand pump works, how fast water flows when its volume increases etc.
http://www.pinterest.com/pin/466333736389026408/

Manipulative materials do not have to be dangerous. With the proper supervision students can use recyclable materials, wood, piping, and more, to create their own projects. Given the space and time to do so, through this type of creative play children will create their own learning opportunities. 
http://www.pinterest.com/pin/141863456981727903/

Even a simple tree stump can host a multitude of imaginative learning opportunities through creative play. 
http://www.pinterest.com/pin/466333736389026421/

What do you think about natural playgrounds? Does your school’s playground have natural elements? Let me know what you think in the comments below or connect with me via Facebook or email.

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