Let the children PLAY!
Created September 24, 2012 by Catherine Jensen
There is a growing body of research that is clearly identifying the need for children to have access to outdoor play that is rooted in natural experiences. The opportunities for children to experience the world in its natural state are becoming fewer and fewer. Children of our time are in school longer, in child care longer, in extracurricular activities longer – and most of these activities happen indoors. As adults most of us have faint memories of playing freely outside. Running through tall grass, rolling down hills, making things out of sticks, balancing on logs, hopping from rock to rock. As our world has densified and electronified the children today have a harder time creating those fond memories of exploring their natural world.
The children of Keating Elementary school and the surrounding area are some of these children. The area in which this school and community is located is classified as an industrial area. There are almost 400 children enrolled at the Elementary school and over 16,000 people in the community. The outdoor social play opportunities for the children of this community are severely limited. There is one playground in addition to the school grounds in the immediate area which is 2km away. The playground at the school, which is a central point in the community, is in severe disrepair. Several components of the current play structure have been deemed unsafe and have been taped off. So what little opportunity the children of the school and community do have has been dramatically impacted by not being able to access a safe and inviting outdoor play-space. In addition to the current unsafe play structures, the Kindergarten children have NO play-space other than a 12.5m by 10m concrete slab and an open 5m by 2m sandbox. There are over 60 full day Kindergarten children at Keating Elementary who share this visionless and uninspiring space. This is unacceptable and needs to change – with your help we can do this!
At Keating School, and within the surrounding community, we have a vision for our children. We see them as being connected to community and their natural environments, we see them learning outside, we see them as having potential to be environmental stewards, and we see them as being curious and full of wonder. We see them as having access to an outdoor play-space that allows all of those things to come to fruition. Our vision is to give our children an inspiring outdoor play-space that combines a natural playground, an outdoor classroom, and big body play equipment.
Why We Are Choosing a Natural Playground:
Current research collated by Evergreen found that children spend on average about 25% of their school day outdoors on the school ground. This setting thus offers important opportunities for promoting physical activity, health and learning through discovery.
Compared to conventional school grounds, natural playgrounds appeal to a wider variety of student interests and support a wider variety of play opportunities that promote more physical activity. On natural playgrounds trees, shrubs, rocks and logs define a variety of places to run, climb, hide and socialize. Moveable, natural materials such as sticks, branches, leaves and stones provide endless opportunities to engage in imaginative play. In addition to the vigorous, rule-bound games played on turf and asphalt, children are climbing boulders, chasing bugs, building shelters, collecting foliage and engaging in other forms of open-ended play. These non-competitive activities invite children of all ages and abilities to get moving.
Creating an outdoor play-space that encompasses both a natural play exploration area mixed with equipment that encourages big body play and movement will allow any child regardless of interest or ability to become engaged during outdoor play time. Citing a study of over 4,000 children in 21 Brisbane (Australia) primary schools, Evans notes: “the most active playgrounds with the happiest children were those containing the greatest variety of play areas.” (Evans, 1998, p. 15). The mixed design also allows for children of all ages and all abilities in the community to access and enjoy the only public play-space within several kilometers.
The community has rallied together and has fundraised over $20,000 towards the project. it is estimated that we will need approximately $80,000 more to make the much needed changes. We need your help to make this initiative a reality for our children who so desperately need this. Together let’s build a safe, enriching, engaging, active and innovative place for the children to PLAY!
Evans, J. (1998). School closures, amalgamations and children's play: Bigger may not be better. Children Australia, 23(1), 12-18.
Evergreen. Grounds for Action: http://www.evergreen.ca/docs/res/Grounds-For-Action.pdf