Expressive arts are an important part of children’s education, enabling pupils to develop critical thinking, communication skills, creativity and a wider understanding of cultural diversity. However, with a curricular emphasis on more academic subjects and a lack of facilities, many children lack the opportunities to get involved. In this post, we’ll look at ways that schools can utilise their playgrounds to widen pupils’ access to expressive arts.
Children love making music but many of them struggle to play instruments. Even if they can, schools tend to keep their own instruments under lock and key because they are expensive to buy, so there is little chance to use them. There is, however, a helpful alternative: outdoor music equipment. Outdoor instruments are designed to be used by all children, including those that have not learned to play. Percussive in nature, they include drainpipe drums, drum tables, xylophones, chimes, washboards and rain wheels. There is even a talking tube that can be used as a natural microphone for those wishing to make their own noises.
Together, these instruments allow children to work together to create their own rhythms and tunes, to learn how the instruments work and explore a range of different sounds, patterns and playing techniques. As they are installed in the playground, they can be used during free time or used as part of the music curriculum.
Drama is a vital subject that enables pupils to explore and develop an understanding of a wide range of things: literary texts, moral dilemmas, cultural values and the thoughts and feelings of others. It can be used to help children feel empathy, solve problems and resolve issues, such as when acting out a bullying situation. It’s also great for developing performance and communication skills and improving confidence.
Children’s love of acting develops at an early age where they enjoy playing different characters in imaginative situations. To encourage this creativity, there is a selection of playground drama resources that schools can install. To get children actively engaged in role play, we have a stimulating range of imaginative outdoor equipment that includes trains, bridges, tunnels, shop kiosks, carriages, mud kitchens and play huts.
For more focused drama, there are also outdoor performance stages which can be used in curriculum time for exploring themes and set texts or to rehearse and perform school productions. Available in a range of sizes and shapes, they include a proscenium arch to create the ideal outdoor theatre setting.
With troupes like Diversity winning Britain’s Got Talent, dance has become ‘cool’ again for young people, including older boys who often shy away from the traditional dance styles. With dance being part of the PE curriculum, it is important to encourage everyone to participate and this can be done very simply by installing the outdoor performance stages mentioned above and providing students with a speaker from which to listen to the music they want to dance to. At secondary schools, most pupils will have their favourite tracks saved on their phones: purchasing a battery-operated Bluetooth speaker would enable them to play their music loud enough so they can create dance moves to it.
Art in school should not just be about developing technical skills and learning about past masters. Instead, children should be given the freedom to explore their creativity by drawing or painting what they want in the way they find best expresses their ideas – even if, artistically, it doesn’t have technical merit.
The resources needed to have this artistic freedom should be an essential part of any expressive arts playground. ESP Play’s outdoor art equipment is ideal for this as it enables children to do imaginative artwork whenever they like. Our resources include painting stations, whiteboards, chalkboards and for exploring a different media, we even have a weaving board for those with an interest in fabrics. All our outdoor boards are interchangeable, simple to clean and can be used during free time or in lessons.
Outdoor performance spaces
When it comes to outdoor music, drama and dance, there are times when the performers will want an audience. This could be for performing in front of friends at break, for peers during lessons or for parents in a formal production.
At ESP Play, we have the ideal selection of outdoor seating, such as log-built, tiered amphitheatres, log seats and storytelling chairs. We also have a wide range of shelters, including large octagonal shelters with seating and decked floors which are ideal for bandstands and performing theatre in the round.
All pupils should be given the opportunity to express themselves artistically and discover different art forms. Unfortunately, there is too little opportunity to do this during the school week. However, by creating an expressive arts playground or even an expressive arts zone within a larger playground, pupils can access inspirational equipment whenever they are free. The equipment can be used in lesson times too.
If you need guidance on designing an expressive arts playground, call us on 01282 43 44 45 or check out the product links in the post above.