About school grounds worldwide
Play Learning Life is thrilled to be supporting International School Grounds Month and we have had a very busy May so far, celebrating the diversity and potential of school grounds with schools and early years settings throughout in the UK. We have
- Collaborated with staff in an Essex Foundation Stage Unit on early years outdoor playground improvements
- Worked with children at a Hampshire primary school on pond improvements and a new fire pit
- Introduced action research projects to a group of early years practitioners in Dudley, examining the elements that contribute to high quality outdoor learning and play
- Created banners with children at a London school, to celebrate progress on their grounds development project
- Worked alongside school architects to establish how best to integrate good quality grounds into their own projects.
- Reflected on outdoor practice and provision with early years practitioners at a London Children’s Centre.
- Explored the potential of school grounds, on a very rainy day, with children at a Liss school
These projects are just a tiny snapshot of what’s happening across the UK; in Scotland, Grounds for Learning have been supporting parents with outdoor play in the natural environment and Juliet Robinson has been blogging the crazy photographs her classes took of their school grounds using iPads. In Northern Ireland, Kierna Corr’s nursery class enjoyed a wet but fiery Friday and in Wales, Learning through Landscapes have been working with the very young.
For my part, I visited ‘Middle Earth’ in the English Midlands: Featherstone Primary School, where part of their school field has been transformed with the help of Timotay Playscapes into a magical child-sized play environment. I’d wanted to visit for a while, so the CPD trip to nearby Dudley provided the perfect excuse. Headteacher Edris Gaibee welcomed me to the school and Early Years lead Helen Beach very kindly gave me a tour of the garden, named Dreamy Hollow.
The focus of the garden is a stunning ‘hobbit hole’ underground classroom, complete with circular door and very low ceilings! Light floods in from a quirky lightwell – a cottage on the hill above. The garden undulates and occupies its space with character and purpose, providing the whole school with myriad learning and play opportunities.
Building work taking place adjacent to the early years classrooms means that their outdoor space is currently out of use, so Helen explained how they are managing to provide regular outdoor time for their youngest children by bringing them up in groups for lengthy periods of time in Dreamy Hollow. Whilst there, children are able to explore dens and willow tunnels, look at picture books and hear stories in the story circle or in the hobbit hole, tend veggies in the allotment area, ride their bikes around the tricky gravel pathways allotment gardens or play freely on the lush grass or wildflower meadow above the hobbit hole.
Helen talked to me about the importance of child initiated play as well as adult supported experiences, and described how joyfully her young children explore, take risks, co-operate and communicate with one another when placed in this unconventional corner of the grounds. At a recent seminar, early years pedagogue Jan White talked about the importance of ‘abundance’ and ‘generosity’ of materials in early years play spaces, and this garden certainly has eccentricity in abundance. It will be fascinating to watch how it develops its character as a playspace in coming years as the natural elements (trees, willow, wildflowers) begin to take hold.
I loved the potential of the ‘mirror’ circle, the casual arrangement of railway sleepers for clambering and the rocks and stones that half-shield the hobbit hole (from Orcs, presumably). There’s a richness of texture, tone and shape here, and (other than the bikes and trikes, which wouldn’t normally be here) most of the landscape, its features and the resources in it reflect the school’s intention to introduce more natural materials to children’s outdoor play and learning.
It’s unusual to see such an ambitious and such an obviously ‘designed’ landscape garden in a school, but this one reflects the needs of the children and staff and is clearly cared for and appreciated by all who use it. Collaborating with Timotay meant the school was able to influence the design right from the start, understanding and accepting the maintenance implications and planning ahead for these. For Helen, the only thing she’d change if they did the project again would be the surface of the path, which coupled with the hilly nature of the site, makes wheely toys very difficult to manoeuvre. However, she recognises that the garden wasn’t designed with these toys in mind, and once the youngsters have their own early years space back, it won’t be an issue.
School is already exploring ideas for another grand playscape around the new early years unit and I plan to be back in a year or two to see how they get on.
Director, Play Learning Life CIC
Find out more about this pre-school at http://www.lund.se/Forskolor/Forskola-Holken/
This is what they told us about what they have been doing and will be doing during May.
During spring we have been talking and learning about the cycle of nature. In may we´re going to construct a small garden where the children are going to plant flowers, potatoes and carrots.
We´re also going to plant sweet peas in used milk cartons.
We have taken pictures of different animals and flowers that we have found in our preschool-ground. We have put the pictures in laminating-sheets and then we have put them in our preschool ground so all children and teachers can look at them.
The village of Siankhor in the Shigar valley, sits on the road to Askoli, the starting point to treks in Pakistan's Karakorum mountain range. It is home to the Abruzzi Higher Secondary School.
Visit www.abrizzischoolgarden.com to learn about the history of the school and in particular its teaching garden.
This year they will be marking International School Grounds Month. Class 6 and 7 have been designing and planting fruit trees, vegetables, flowers and a compost bin in their allotted space in the garden. Their garden activity focuses on English and Math respectively.
The 2013 International Green School Ground Conference, hosted by Evergreen and the International School Grounds Alliance, will be held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on September 23-25, 2013! We have received a lot of great stories, project information and ideas for the conference. Thanks to those who have sent them along to us and please keep the ideas coming!
At this time Evergreen is soliciting speaker applications, as described below. This information is also posted on the Conference website.
We hope you will join us at this exciting event. Please help to spread the word around the world!
REQUEST FOR SPEAKERS
Evergreen, in partnership with the International School Grounds Alliance, is soliciting applications for speaker presentations for the 2013 International Green School Ground Conference. If you would like to grow professionally, meet interesting people and share your stories, please apply to speak at the conference. For speaker opportunities and information please email email@example.com
We are pleased to announce that ISGA Steering Committee member Bernard Spiegal of PLAYLINK in England will be giving a presentation in San Francisco, California, USA on May 1st. His talk will address the beneficial aspects of risk in children's outdoor environments and examine the ways in which common sense thinking should be incorporated into our management practices and standards for children's play environments. Please join us for this event which is also on the first day of ISGA's International School Grounds Month!
Presentation title: A British Perspective on the Rewarding Risks of Outdoor Play
Location: The Presidio's Golden Gate Club
San Francisco, California USA
(click here for directions)
RSVP appreciated: Charlotte Hill - firstname.lastname@example.org by April 26th
More information about the speaker:
Bernard Spiegal is principal of PLAYLINK, based in the UK, working with statutory, voluntary, housing and social enterprise sectors. He fulfills both advisory and consultancy roles with a range of institutions: public authorities, schools, parks. He developed PLAYLINK's Play Policy and commissioned independent Counsel Opinion (non-binding yet authoritative legal advice) to test its rationale and interpretation of 'reasonableness'. He also took PLAYLINK into the direct design of 'playable spaces' working with play knowledgeable landscape architects.
Bernard is co-author of Managing Risk in Play Provision: implementation guide, an acknowledged seminal work that introduced (or 're-introduced') the concept of risk-benefit assessment. He has had a number of articles published and now has his own blog: bernardspiegal.com
Bernard’s commitment to play – both as a mode of being and as a way of relating to the world – is both visceral and political. It is based on the values of freedom and autonomy. Collaborating with others, Bernard has promoted different ways of thinking about play space, in particular the need to ensure that children and teenagers are woven into – and their presence legitimized within – shared public space, whether in parks, streets or residential areas.
The International School Grounds Alliance is pleased to announce the first annual International School Grounds Month. During May 2013 schools around the planet will celebrate their school grounds which provide stimulating opportunities for children to learn, play and form lasting friendships.
This is a special opportunity to engage children in outdoor experiences in a variety of meaningful ways. They might include making a bean teepee playhouse, creating a school grounds celebration song, planning and planting a ‘nibbling’ garden, geocaching, or designing and flying carp streamers. Activities may range from one hour to one month. The possibilities are limitless!
Please plan to join thousands of schools from countries around the globe to celebrate the richness and diversity of school grounds and then register your school's projects here to share your work. For more information, resources, and activity ideas please visit the International School Grounds Month information page.
Exciting news! We are holding a conference September 23-25, 2013 and hope you will come!
Evergreen Learning Grounds and the International School Ground Alliance (ISGA) invite you to join us in Toronto this September for the 2013 International Green School Ground Conference, the first significant gathering of the ISGA since its founding less than two years ago.
This three-day conference will be a rare opportunity to share best practices, case studies and innovations in play and learning on school grounds. The conference will feature presentations by visionary leaders of the school ground movement as well as intimate group sessions with hands-on training, skill building and local tours.
We hope you'll mark your calendars now and plan to join us for this exciting event! Please help us spread the word by posting this announcement far and wide. Thanks!
ISGA is excited to announce that ISGA co-founder Sharon Danks's book Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation received an ASLA 2012 Professional Award in Communications.
"This inspiring, comprehensive book about the vibrant, international green schoolyard movement is a call to action to improve children’s school environments for learning, play, and ecology, and a celebration of 150 successful examples around the world. Compiled from the author’s decade of research and experience, the book speaks to both design professionals and community members, and brims with design ideas, practical tips, and strategies for engaging school communities as stewards of their shared public space."
The ASLA Professional Awards honor the top public places, residential designs, campuses, parks, and urban planning projects from across the US and around the world, with particular focus on the environmental sensitivity and sustainability of the projects. Asphalt to Ecosystems has been awarded honors in the Communications category, which recognizes achievement in communicating landscape architecture works, technique, and theory.
The Awards Jury pronounced it “the most comprehensive and usable book. It’s got great ideas that people can actually translate into practice.” ISGA would like to congratulate Sharon Danks on this prestigious acknowledgement of Asphalt to Ecosystems’ viability as a blueprint for a new paradigm of play and learning.
The September 2012 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine featuring the award winners will be available in stores September 14, and can also be found online. Asphalt to Ecosystems is published by New Village Press, and the book can be purchased at a discount through their website page.
We are thrilled to announce that the International School Grounds Alliance has just released a new 8 minute video, produced as a result of the September 2011 Engaging Our Grounds conference, held in California! Entitled, Voices from the International School Grounds Movement - California, 2011, the video includes interviews with individuals from seven countries who provide a wide variety of perspectives on the growing school ground movement around the world. The piece includes photographs of school grounds in Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Individuals interviewed for the video include (in order of appearance):
- Cam Collyer, Program Director, Evergreen (Canada)
- Dr. Petter Åkerblom, Landscape Architect, Movium (Sweden)
- Prof. Robin Moore, Director, Natural Learning Initiative (USA)
- Manfred Dietzen, Landscape Architect, Coordinator, Grün macht Schule (Germany)
- Dr. Ko Senda, Landscape Architect, Environment Design Institute (Japan)
- Ayesha Ercelawn, Garden Educator, Tule Elk Park Early Education School (USA)
- Arden Bucklin-Sporer, Executive Director, San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance (USA)
- Julie Mountain, Director, Play Learning Life (United Kingdom)
- Mary Jackson, Development Manager, Learning through Landscapes (United Kingdom)
- Helen Tyas Tunggal, Director, Learnscapes Planning and Design (Australia)
- Sharon Danks, Principal, Bay Tree Design, inc. (USA)
- Bernard Spiegal, Principal, PLAYLINK (United Kingdom)
- Birgit Teichmann, Dipl. Ing., Landscape Architect, Teichmann Landschafts Architekten (Germany)
Voices from the International School Grounds Movement was filmed and edited by Erika Brekke. It was co-produced by Erika Brekke and ISGA conference director Sharon Danks. The 2011 conference in California was co-hosted by New Village Press/ADPSR, San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance, and Bay Tree Design, inc.
Please JOIN US and help us to spread the word about this exciting piece!