4 Key Ways Schools Can Use Their Playground to Teach Maths

If you’re looking for exciting ways to teach maths, your school playground is the ideal resource. Outside, pupils have the opportunity to discover numbers, patterns, shapes, sizes, angles, volumes and distances. And, as we’ll show you in this post, there are some fabulous practical activities you can do that will enhance classroom learning and develop skills.

The other advantage of teaching maths outdoors is that it gives children the space and freedom to explore their understanding of key concepts, and this, in turn, inspires and motivates them to make progress. By applying skills in a practical way, you can show children that what they learn in the classroom has relevance in the real world.

So, here are the ways you can use your playground to teach maths outdoors.

social seating

Mathematical Games

Playground markings can be an exceptionally useful resource to help children learn a variety of maths skills through playing games, and some markings are designed with exactly this in mind. By using movement and repetition, children are able to explore numbers, sequences and patterns and remember them better too.  

Traditional playground games, like hopscotch, or giant snakes and ladders, for example, can help young pupils familiarise themselves with basic numbers in easy, practical and fun ways. Target games, where children score points by hitting a target with a ball or bean bag can be used to help with addition.

Playground markings are also ideal for developing your own mathematical games to use in lessons. Take a numbered stepper, for example, and add a dice, and it can be a fun way to practice addition and subtraction. Rather than having to work out the numbers in their heads or using fingers, children can learn by counting the steps they take.  

Another interesting activity can be done simply with a long rope or washing line. Using large groups of pupils, you can ask them to make a range of different shapes. How many children do you need to make an octagon? How many for a rectangle? Can you make a 3d shape? Is it possible to make a circle?

Water & Sand Experiments

Once you have established the best type of playground surfacing for your needs, the next stage of the process is to look at the type of sports your PE curriculum covers. If possible, you should try and dovetail this to match the kinds of sports your pupils will to want to play during breaktimes. Finding common ground here, will enable you to provide facilities which children will get the most benefit from.

After making your decision, you can then select the necessary playground markings to have installed. There is a wide variety to choose from and they are all suitable for the surfaces mentioned above and can also be installed on your existing hard surfaced playground. Here at ESP Play, we can provide the markings for football, futsal (five-a-side football), netball, rounders, basketball, tennis and cricket. For those particularly short of space, it is possible to create a multi-sports area by overlaying markings for different sports using different colours.

These markings enable PE staff to teach these sports whilst letting children have the fun of playing them during break times.

Take advantage of nature

Whether you have a natural nature area or have a range of outdoor nature equipment installed in your playground, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to take advantage of it for developing your pupils’ maths skills.

One of the things that nature is excellent for is surveys. How many insects of different types can you discover in a bug house? Which areas of the playground collect the most volume of leaves, acorns or sycamore seeds? These activities can be used for learning counting, measuring, frequency and other skills. For example, if you measure by how much a bird feeder gets emptier each day, you can ask the children to work out how many bird feeders will be needed for the next term.

You can also use nature to study patterns, shapes and sizes. Children can do this by collecting leaves, seeds and flowers. They can look at similarities and differences to make Venn diagrams.

If you include outdoor maths activities over a longer period, you can examine how things change over time. How much does a plant grow each week? How much rain falls each day in a half term? How long does it take for all the leaves to fall off different tree types during autumn? Not only will these require the pupils to use counting and comparing skills, they’ll also need to come up with effective ways to record and calculate their findings.

Maths with thrills

If you have a range of active outdoor play equipment installed in your playground, you can take your maths learning to a completely new level. For example, if you have Trim Trails, you can record the time it takes for pupils to complete the obstacle course. From this, you can do more complicated analysis. Can pupils link the height or age of a person to how fast they complete the course? What are the mean, median and mode times? Can pupils work out the speed from the times?    

You can invent similar activities for traversing a climbing wall or coming down a play tower slide. All these activities are great fun to do and involve quite a lot of detailed and even complicated calculation.

Conclusion

Playgrounds offer the ideal environment in which to give pupils the chance to learn maths in practical, active and enjoyable ways. There are many resources you can use, those that are a natural part of your outdoor space, installed playground equipment or even specialised, outdoor maths curriculum resources. If you need assistance in finding the right resources, give us a call on 01282 43 44 45.

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Guide to Creating an Inclusive School Playground

Five percent of children in the UK are disabled and many of these find themselves excluded from outdoor play activities because school playgrounds are not designed with inclusion in mind. In this post, we’ll discuss what practical steps schools need to take to create a truly inclusive playground for all pupils.

Why you need an inclusive playground

Outdoor play brings benefits of all kinds: it improves physical and mental health, promotes personal development and encourages better social interaction. However, some children are denied these opportunities because the design of the playground or the equipment on offer creates a barrier for them. Pupils who use a wheelchair, for example, may face accessibility issues whereas autistic pupils might find busy spaces overbearing. A truly inclusive playground would ensure that all pupils could participate in outdoor play.

Guidelines for creating an inclusive school playground:

1. Accessibility

The first thing one should consider when looking at playground accessibility is whether children can get into and move around the space with ease. For this, pathways need to be wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs, be smooth and have gentle inclines to raised areas.

Not only should pathways enable children to get in and move around with ease, they should also help children in wheelchairs and those who have difficulty walking get directly to any of the equipment. Ideally, when creating the playground, you should locate popular equipment near the playground entrance or close to any pathway.

If your site contains any high points, such as mounds, raised stages or climbing equipment, wheelchair access should be provided. For those pupils who are unable to access this type of equipment, you need to provide the opportunities for them to get close so that they can continue being with friends. If they are taking part in a roleplay, for example, they can still be part of the activity even if not using the equipment itself.

Another important consideration is playground surfacing. Some surfacing materials make it much easier for wheelchair users to move around on whilst others provide safer surfaces to fall on. Make sure you use the most appropriate surface for each area of your playground.

Finally, if you use any signs in your outdoor playground, make sure that these are placed at a height where wheelchair users can read them (around one metre above the ground) and have them written in simple to understand text or use easy to understand symbols. If you have pupils who are blind, Braille should be used too.

2. Sensory Play

Outdoor Playground Music Equipment

Sensory play should be an essential element of an inclusive playground. All children, regardless of ability, are fascinated by touch, sound, smell and visual stimulation and creating an area where everyone can enjoy these things together goes a long way towards inclusivity.

For sight and visual stimulation, install body warping mirror boards or equipment with a variety of shapes and textures. Installing planters enables you to grow flowers which are both brightly coloured and which offer a variety of scents.

Sound stimulation can easily be achieved through the use of child-friendly, outdoor musical equipment, such as chimes, drums, washboards, xylophones and talking tubes, whilst one of the best ways to offer tactile stimulation is through sand and water play. Here at ESP Play, for example, we have a range of water and sand play equipment which also includes a variety of mud kitchens.

3. Imaginative, Individual and Social Play

school story telling area special offer

An inclusive playground needs to have an open space where children can participate in imaginative play together. Some of this space should, ideally, be free from any equipment and be suitably surfaced so that children can use the area to move around easily. However, to encourage children to participate and socially interact, it helps to have imaginative outdoor play equipment installed nearby.

At the same time, there also needs to be a space where children who find the hustle and bustle of a busy playground overwhelming can go for some much-needed quiet time. Nature areas shielded off with trellises and located further away from the loudest areas are the best solutions. There is a range of great nature resources available to help create a calm area in your playground. However, if this is not possible, then consider installing smaller features across the playground such as play tunnels and seating huts where children can find respite.

4. Physical Play

Physical play is a great way to encourage social inclusion, enabling children who find it difficult to socially interact to join in activities and develop relationships with others. For this reason, an inclusive playground should provide equipment for group games and sports activities that can be accessed by all. If you install playground sports equipment, consider adapting it so that every child can use it. For example, if you have a basketball court, install a second set of nets at a height where wheelchair users can participate in shooting for goal.

When it comes to inclusive physical play, every child should be given the opportunity for challenge and risk and a range of suitable equipment, for example, large climbing structures, should be provided to meet the needs of all students. Children of all year groups, sizes and abilities should be catered for.

5. Seating & Tables

Seating in an inclusive playground should be placed at 20-metre intervals along pathways so that those who have difficulty walking can take regular rest stops if needed. It should also be placed near to the play equipment. For physical support, some playground seating should have back and arm rests and there should be space available next to the seating where wheelchair users can place their wheelchairs next to their friends.

Any tables that are provided should be high enough for a wheelchair user to put their legs underneath.  

Conclusion

As you can see from reading this article, there is a lot to consider when designing a playground that is truly exclusive. If you are looking for help in creating an exclusive playground for your school, call us on 01282 43 44 45 and we’ll be happy to help.

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How to Create a Forest School Style Environment in Your Playground

Forest schools are highly regarded centres that inspire pupils to develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning in a natural environment. Whilst many schools use these centres for one-off day trips, the benefits are limited because of the infrequency of visits and because only a small number of pupils get to go.

The ideal situation would be to have a suitable ‘natural environment’ area on your school premises where all children could have access to nature all year round. This way, everyone can take part and the benefits can be sustained.

Whilst some schools are lucky enough to have such an area within their grounds, many do not. However, this does not mean you cannot go some way to creating a natural environment. In this post, we’ll explain how this can be achieved.

Identifying an Area

playground seating

The first thing you need to do is identify the part of your school premises which you want to use for your forest school nature area. Ideally, it will be a place which has the following qualities:

  • It is naturally grassed. (There are ways around this if needed.)
  • It can be sectioned off from the playground and reserved for special use.
  • It gets sunlight.
  • It has sufficient space for your needs. (How many children will you want to have access at any one time?)
  • If it already has established trees, even better.

Getting The Right Groundworks

The best ground on which to create a natural environment is one which has soil and grass. This way you have the right environment for planting and for attracting the fauna that lives in the soil and grass.

If this is lacking, there are two alternatives. You can create raised beds on top of hard surfacing which can then be turfed over, or you can use a different type of playground surfacing, such as rubber mulch, in combination with a series of planters

Installing Trees

For a real forest school environment, you should plant trees in your nature area. Trees encourage a much wider ecosystem to develop, they create shading and they make the area look far more natural rather than simply garden-like.

If you have a naturally grassy area, it may be possible to plant trees directly into the ground. However, this may be impractical if the roots are likely to cause problems with building works or if you are using raised beds. However, this does not mean you cannot have them.

Many trees will grow perfectly well and to a reasonable, manageable size in large, deep planters or pots. Doing this also enables you to install a range of different trees, such as a mix of conifers and deciduous trees. You may even want to plant trees which blossom in the spring or which fruit in late summer.

Encouraging Wildlife

One of the benefits of creating a forest school environment is enabling children to observe and learn about nature in its natural environment. To do this, you need to encourage wildlife to move into the area.

This can be achieved easily with a few simple pieces of equipment. For example, our insect habitats, ladybird towers, bird tables and butterfly boxes are great for encouraging birds and insects to your area. Add a small, shallow pond for frogs and newts and you are on your way.

Hide The School Walls

To create the impression that your forest school nature area is a little more secluded and away from the school building, you can install planters with trellises. These will enable you to plant climbers, tall shrubs or bushes that can create a green, living boundary that shields your area from the rest of the school.

When this is done, children visiting the nature area will really feel like they are leaving the school and entering a natural environment. This will enable them to feel more relaxed and better inclined to undertake the outdoor learning tasks you have prepared for them.

Add Some Plants

With lots of different planters to choose from, it is possible to plant a wide range of flora in your nature area. However, if you are trying to recreate a forest school environment, ideally, you should grow plants which are found within woodland areas: ferns, bluebells, wild garlic, nettles, primroses and foxgloves, for example.

Planting a range of flowers that bloom throughout the year can ensure there is always some colour in your area. You can also plant fruiting plants such as brambles. Adding a few old logs will also encourage interesting looking fungi to move in.

Equipping Your Forest School Area

To help children learn in your nature area, there is a range of equipment you can use. For example, you can install nature boards to help them identify different types of plants and wildlife or, for more detailed examination, you can also use an investigation table or a discovery planter.

Learning through play should also be encouraged and there is plenty of den making equipment you can use, together with hollow logs and crooked benches. At ESP Play we have an entire range of Wild Wood equipment, inspired by nature, which may be the ideal complement to your forest school.

Conclusion

Giving children access to a natural environment can benefit them in many ways, including improving their learning skills and social and emotional well-being. For most schools, providing children with such an environment is something that happens only occasionally, on school trips. However, from reading this article, you should have some idea how you can provide it for all children, all year round, even if your school lacks its own natural space.

If you are considering creating a forest school style nature area at your school, call us on 01282 43 44 45 and we’ll be happy to discuss how we can help.

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Ideal Playground Equipment to Help Kids Learn About Nature and The Environment

Exploring nature and the environment is essential if children are to develop a better understanding of the world in which they live. It helps improve their understanding of science and increases their awareness of our impact on the environment. In this article, we’ll look at a selection of outdoor playground equipment you can use to help pupils learn about the environment in fun, hands-on ways.

 

Birds & Bugs

One of the best ways you can get children to appreciate birds and bugs is through seeing them close up in their natural habitats. To make this possible, we have created a range of outdoor science resources designed to encourage these animals to visit and even make their homes on your school’s grounds.

Our butterfly boxes, for example, are the perfect way for children to study these beautiful creatures. The wooden boxes are a safe environment for butterflies and with its Perspex window, children can regularly observe how the insects change during their life cycle. The boxes attract different species of hibernating butterflies during the winter and are also used to lay eggs, hatch larvae and change into caterpillars. Some caterpillars will even use the box as the place to form their chrysalis and turn into a butterfly.

For a wider variety of bug life, we also have ladybird towers and our wonderful insect habitat which, with its many nooks and crannies, is the ideal home for a wide variety of insects, all of which can be studied close up on a regular basis.

If you are looking to investigate the birdlife in your school’s local area, then our bird tables can be a great way to encourage them onto your premises. Put it in a quiet spot where children can observe through a window without disturbing the birds and you’ll soon find them flocking to your site. You can even set up a camera and take pictures of the different species that visit. You’ll also be able to help them stay fed during the winter months.

Sustainable Living

It’s important that all children learn to appreciate food, where it comes from and how it grows. There is no better way of doing that then letting them grow their own food and, if possible, getting them to cook and eat it once it is harvested.

Here at ESP Play, we have everything you need to create your own school food garden so children can learn about sustainable living, first hand. Our growing boxes and herb planters are ideal for growing a range of organic, seasonal vegetables and herbs which can be harvested and taken straight to the kitchen. Ideal for easy planters like carrots, peas, potatoes, tomatoes, etc.

Fascinating Flora

Learning about a plant’s lifecycle is a key part of the National Curriculum and our schools’ outdoor planting equipment enables children to study how plants grow and to see the effects that soil, sunlight and water have on them. You can compare different species of plant and take a close look at the fauna that lives on them. We even provide an investigation table, specially designed to help students do exciting scientific investigations into the soil and plants.

At the same time, you can bring the beauty of nature right into the heart of your school’s playground by creating an area that is full of colourful, scented plants. This is a great way to help pupils appreciate nature whilst creating a calm and peaceful space for them to spend their lunch and break times.

We provide schools with a range of planters, trellises and digging pits. We even have planters with Perspex windows so children can observe root growth and under soil fauna without having to disturb the plants and risk damaging their delicate root systems. Alternatively, you can also install one of our unique, curriculum-based growing boards.

We also provide fencing and gates if you want to keep your mini nature reserve as a special place which can only be visited under supervision.

Watching The Weather

Studying the weather is another area covered by the National Curriculum and one of the things children love to do the most is record the weather in their own location. Here at ESP Play, we have developed a selection of weather stations that record wind speed, precipitation, cloud cover and a range of other details that children can use to examine weather patterns and seasonal changes. These can be mounted on posts or on walls in your playground for ease of use and can be taken down when not needed.

Conclusion

Helping children get closer to nature can have lots of benefits. It helps them appreciate the environment, leading to an increased awareness of the need to protect it in the future. At the same time, first-hand experience of investigating nature helps pupils develop a deeper understanding of the science taught in the classroom. Using our range of outdoor playground equipment, you can easily transform your grounds into your own nature zone and take your science lessons outside. For more details, check out our Nature and Garden section.

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