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We are well and truly back into the swing of it for Term 2 and we hope all students and staff are settling back in after a restful and restorative break. In the coming weeks, School Stream has some news to share about some exciting new features coming to the app. We think you will be impressed.

Play in an educational setting

In the meantime, School Stream is looking at the role of play in an educational setting, and a ‘radical’ approach to the playground on a housing estate in Wales.

We’re here to support schools. Click here to read the School Communication Report or keep reading for our overview on play in an educational setting.

Play is a natural part of life

What do you think of when you think of your childhood experiences of play? For many adults of a certain age, the memories will be of being outside, building cubbies, racing billy carts or bikes around the neighbourhood and other games that involved roaming the neighbourhood all day. We were simply trusted to look after ourselves, undertake our own risk management and be home by dark. Many educators and experts in the area of play are concerned that these opportunities for genuine free play, particularly in wild spaces, are in decline. There are even concerns by experts internationally that playground access during school hours is also being eroded due to community concerns about safety and the threat of litigation for schools, and this is having a significant impact on the wellbeing of children and young people.

There are clear benefits to play – for all age groups

First up, we all know there are very clear benefits to the types of free play that occur in playgrounds:

‘This sort of voluntary learning helps to reduce the consequences of failure. Children feel less frustrated and are allowed to be creative and expressive in spaces where they make choices.’

The coordination of fine and gross motor skills, problem-solving, focus, persistence, social and communication skills, and cooperation are all skills that are learned and honed in the playground. And, because it is fun, play helps to strengthen emotional wellbeing. Play is even making its way into the classroom and on to the syllabus, as the benefits of learning through play pedagogies gain traction with educators. Teacher Magazine published findings from the Lego Foundation’s recent white paper into the benefits of play which noted that play promotes learning when it is joyful, meaningful, actively engaging, iterative, and socially interactive.

A challenge for schools

As with many things in education, it can be a challenge to meet everyone’s expectations. How can schools balance the needs of children to have access to a playground area that works for everyone; that is engaging with just the right amount of danger to keep students stimulated and distracted from anti-social behaviour while keeping everyone safe. What makes the perfect playground? Respected New Zealand educator and playground researcher, Dr Lllyween Couper, says in her recently released Using the Playground as a Curriculum Resource:

“In a mainstream school, there is a need to design play spaces for diversity ensuring all children have opportunities to play in a variety of play opportunities to experience feelings of belonging, friendship, acceptance and inclusion…”

You can refer to Dr Couper’s book for further information about the playground audit tool, which is a data-driven, whole of school approach to developing a school playground where everyone is welcome.

A ‘radical’ approach in Wales

At the opposite end of the scale, there are some projects internationally that are really pushing the boundaries of playground design, leading The Guardian to ask ‘Is this the perfect playground, full of junk?’ when writing about the much-lauded adventure playground, The Land. The space is full of ‘junk’ and is ‘dead dangerous’ according to one parent. Kids love it though and injuries have been few and far between. Obviously, schools are not the place to offer kids access to hammers, saws, and abandoned construction parts, but maybe it is time we rethink play? In the words of Claire Griffiths in the same article:

“I loved giving children a space where they could just be children… A space where children could be the masters’.

We know you’re busy. Click here to see a quick video of how we use technology to help your school communicate effectively with parents and families.