Playground Design and Fundraising Ideas for Schools During Coronavirus

If your school has been considering a new playground, the Coronavirus lockdown might provide the time to plan your new outdoor space and even do a spot of online fundraising. With the majority of pupils and their parents at home looking for things to occupy their time, there’s a lot of opportunity for pupil and parent involvement in your project. Here are some ideas you might want to consider.

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Designing your new school playground

There’s a lot to think about when designing a new playground for schools and nurseries. Some things, of course, need a specialist’s view, like whether groundwork needs to be carried out for drainage before new surfacing is laid. On the other hand, there are plenty of things that pupils and parents can get involved in, like choosing their favourite pieces of play apparatus and thinking of different kinds of zones that they might want to play in.

As most children are absent during the Coronavirus pandemic, you can set homework tasks that encourage pupil involvement in your playground redevelopment planning. One interesting project would be to get them to design their ideal playground. You could start by creating a downloadable outline of your playground, so they have an idea of the shape and size of the space and you could then ask them to visit our products page so they can find the outdoor play equipment that most appeals to them.

To make things more realistic and challenging, ask them to choose the types of zone they want to include, such as a nature area, climbing zone, a place for sport and PE, a dining and seating area, space for roleplay and creative fun, a sensory zone, etc. and then ask them to select equipment for each zone.

Once this has been done, the pupils can then create their design in colour, label the zones and write a list of the equipment they want to go in it. They can then email the project to their teacher. If you want to give even more challenge, ask the pupils to create a 3D design and send in a photo. To raise the profile of the project, you can even make it into a competition and give prizes for the best designs.

The benefit of this is that it gives school leaders a clear idea of how pupils of different ages, abilities and interests want to use the outdoor space. This helps you create an inclusive playground with a range of zones that appeal to all children. It also ensures that you spend your budget effectively, purchasing apparatus that you know will engage pupils and be well used.

It is not just pupils who you can get on board, either. With many parents forced to stay at home, they’ll have more time to answer questionnaires about what they want to see in the school playground. You could also set up an online playground working group, with parents and teachers conducting discussions over video chat.

New playground fundraising

Just because schools are closed for most pupils doesn’t mean fundraising activities for your new playground have to cease. Since the Corona outbreak began, millions of people are keeping in touch with friends and loved ones using video chat apps like Skype and Zoom. Social media is full of examples of how these are being creatively used. It is possible, for example, for your school to hold an online talent competition or even a school band performance where the various musicians each play from home. For fundraising purposes, you can ask parents to contribute via platforms like ParentPay or even set up a GoFundMe account.

Aside from using video and live streaming, there are other ways to raise money during the lockdown. You could, for example, ask the parent-teacher association to host a ‘buy now, receive later’ bun sale. Alternatively, you could hold a bric-a-brac auction where parents pledge to pay for items once things return to normal.

Finally, with your pupils having quite a bit more free time, there is a lot of opportunity to undertake sponsored activities, with people paying their sponsorship online. Of course, with pupils’ movement being restricted, they’ll need to come up with some inventive ideas about what they can do – but that just adds to the fun and challenge of it.

Conclusion

Though Coronavirus is causing major disruption, schools looking to redevelop their playgrounds have the potential to bring something positive from the experience. Undertaking design and fundraising during the lockdown can unite the school community to achieve something that will, once the pandemic is over, benefit everyone. Hopefully, the ideas given here will be useful.

If you are considering a new playground, visit our Free Playground Design Service page. For design inspiration, make sure you check out the video while you’re there.

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Making the Most of Your Playground Design – Ideas to Consider

Is your school or nursery taking full advantage of your outdoor spaces? Does your playground fulfil all the things you want it to? For establishments looking to develop outdoor provision, there are plenty of ways to make improvements. To give you some idea of what it is possible to achieve through playground design, here are some points you may wish to consider.

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Playground design lets you optimise outdoor spaces

Sometimes, it is difficult to visualise the potential you have to transform your outdoor space. Anyone who has watched the BBC TV programme ‘Your Home Made Perfect’ will have seen how the show’s architects used virtual reality to remove all the walls in a house, letting owners see how the entire space could be reimagined. Although you might not have virtual reality technology at hand, starting your playground design by creating a blank plan of your outdoor areas, removing existing features like walls or fences, enables you to see how the entire space could be put to better use.

Even if you require development on a smaller scale, there might still be quirky, unused or forgotten areas that can be given a new lease of life with the right equipment, perhaps installing wonky mirrors onto walls, putting a storytelling circle on a grassy corner or filling an empty recess with a shelter.

Designing an all-weather playground

To get optimum use out of your playground, you want children to be able to enjoy it all year round. The starting point for making this happen is having the right playground surfacing installed. While different uses can require different types of surface, modern surfacing materials like resin-bound gravel, artificial grass, wetpour and rubber mulch are all better suited to wet weather play than puddle-prone asphalt and tarmac and muddy grass. Though even grassed areas can be used in the wet when they have protective grass matting to stop them churning up. By introducing surfaces like these, with excellent drainage, you reduce the chances of slippage and make the playground more inviting to play in, even during a shower.

Of course, there are always children who hate wet weather and days when the rain will be heavy. However, there are still things you can do to make the playground useable. Playground shelters, including some with windbreaking side panels and built-in seating, offer places for the rain-averse to sit in and for everyone else to congregate during a downpour. You can also install sail shades close to the side of the school too, and these will protect against both the rain and the sunshine. Another solution is to install play huts for smaller groups to occupy.

Designing for variety and inclusion

The key to getting the most from your playground is providing variety for your pupils. Today, the solution for achieving this comes through designing a playground with a range of play zones, each providing a different type of activity. Our free playground design service ensures your playground fulfils all the things you want from it. You can create spaces for play, PE and learning while providing inclusive and engaging activities that are fun, healthy and meet the needs of all pupils.

The type of equipment you install depends upon the needs, interests and ages of your students, and we always advocate getting your pupils and parents involved in the decision-making process. Not only does this help you install the equipment the pupils want; it also means you’ll have a more enthusiastic group of fundraisers.

Schools and nurseries have a lot of options when it comes to the types of playground equipment they can install, however, when it comes to zones, the most popular tend to be an area for playing sport and teaching PE, an outdoor classroom, a playground game area (for hopscotch, tag, skipping, etc.) a challenge and risk zone with exciting climbing apparatus, a water and sand messy play area, a creative area (for art, roleplay, music, dance, etc.), a sensory area and a quiet nature area.

Of course, as most schools and nurseries have limited space and budgets, clever design can be used to make some zones multi-purpose. A quiet nature area, for example, can also be used as a storytelling or reading corner and a place to study plants, insects and the weather.

Funding for playground development

Developing a playground can be expensive and often requires schools to apply for funding and to raise funds themselves. However, there are a variety of grants that you may be eligible to apply for and here at ESP Play, we can help you find them. At the same time, Parent Teacher Associations do a terrific job at fundraising and, over the years, we have seen many raise substantial amounts to help transform their school and nursery playgrounds.

Conclusion

Though the playground is one of a school or nursery’s most valuable assets, it is often under-utilised. Careful playground design can help you make the most of it, ensuring optimal use of space, accessible all year round, while providing a broad range of learning and play activities that suit the needs and preferences of your children.

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4 Ways to Tell if Your Playground Needs an Upgrade

All school playgrounds eventually need an upgrade. Years of heavy use and constant exposure to weathering means playground surfacing and equipment will, at some point, need replacing. At the same time, the priorities of schools change with new initiatives requiring outdoor spaces to be redeveloped to suit modern curricula and teaching methods. So, is your playground in need of an upgrade? In this post, we’ll discuss some of the things that will help you answer that question.

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1. Your playground has safety issues

If you have play equipment already installed in your outdoor spaces, you’ll be aware of the need to carry out regular inspections to ensure that everything is safe for your pupils. With daily visual inspections, monthly operational inspections and annual inspections from an independent RPII qualified inspector, schools should have a clear idea of whether existing equipment and surfaces are in good working order and present no risk to their students. If there are issues, however, then they need addressing quickly in order to prevent the potential of pupils coming to harm.

When it comes to health and safety, it is always better to be proactive than reactive. Rather than waiting for a piece of equipment to fail an inspection before replacing it, it is safer to upgrade it when it is getting towards the end of its lifecycle but is still safe to play on. Things to look out for are rusting or fatigued metalwork, broken or cracked plastics, loose fittings, worn, slippery or poor-draining surfaces and decaying timber.

2. Your outdoor equipment is tired and unappealing

Today’s classrooms and corridors are vibrant places designed to create stimulating and engaging learning environments. Children also need to be stimulated and engaged in the playground but this can be hard to achieve when the surfaces and equipment begin to look tired and lose their appeal. When playground markings wear away, sports fields become bare soil and once brightly coloured equipment is now ugly grey steel with odd patches of chipped, sun-bleached paint, such dilapidated outdoor spaces stand in stark contrast to the indoor environment and do little to motivate pupils to play or learn outside. If a playground looks past its best and too few children are making use of it, then it’s time for an upgrade.

3. Health and wellbeing not catered for

Today, improving health and wellbeing is often a primary reason for the decision to upgrade a playground. With 20% of year 6 pupils in 2018-2019 being obese and 12.8% of school-aged pupils suffering from a mental disorder, the UK has some serious health issues to tackle when it comes to young people. While physical exercise alone is not a panacea, it offers many benefits for both physical and mental wellbeing. Regular physical activity can help reduce obesity, prevent the onset of some mental disorders and assist those living with existing disorders to cope better.

Unfortunately, modern lifestyles mean few children get the hour of physical exercise that medical experts say they need every day to stay healthy. Often, the school playground is the only place where such an opportunity exists; though whether they take advantage of it depends to a great extent on the type of playground equipment available to them. Different pupils have different interests and to get them more active you need a range of equipment that will motivate even the most reluctant pupils.

4. No opportunity for outdoor learning

For young children at the beginning of their educational journey, outdoor play is a critical part of the learning process. For this reason, many EYFS providers strive to create playgrounds that offer a seamless transition between the indoor and outdoor areas, enabling learning to flow from one to the other without interruption. Indeed, playground designs that offer the opportunity to combine fun with the pursuit of learning are now highly popular.

The educational benefits of being outdoors, however, have not gone unnoticed by the teachers of older students and, today, outdoor classrooms are much sought after by both primary and secondary schools. While PE has always taken advantage of the school’s outdoor areas, modern playgrounds can now install subject specific equipment that is purposely designed to cover virtually every curriculum area.

Another sign that your school needs a playground upgrade is that it doesn’t provide suitable opportunities for learning. With so much equipment available and indoor space at a premium, it is an opportunity not to be missed, especially as pupils really enjoy learning outdoors.

Conclusion

When deciding if your school playground needs an upgrade, there are four basic questions you may wish to ask. Is your current playground safe for pupils? Does it provide a stimulating environment with fun equipment? Do the playground facilities offer opportunities to improve pupils’ health and wellbeing? Is your outdoor space adequately equipped as a place for learning? If the answer to any of these is no, then it may be time to consider an upgrade.

If you’re looking for inspiration, take a look at our wide range of outdoor play and learning equipment.

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The Role of the School Playground in Tackling Climate Change

Climate change is the burning issue of the moment – and rightly so. The impact of human activity on the planet is leading to disastrous consequences for all life forms, including our own. Unfortunately, it is our children and their children who are going to suffer the worst of these effects and if we want to reverse the situation, then we urgently need children to learn about what the causes are and how they can bring around change.

That learning starts in school and one of the best places for it to happen is in the playground. Playing outdoors is vital if children are to start understanding the environment and how to take care of it. Outdoor play encourages children to develop a love and an appreciation of nature, something they seldom get the chance to in today’s screen-obsessed world.

Climate change is already having a devastating impact on young lives. Respiratory infections, due to polluted air and water, are estimated to take the lives of two million under-fives each year. The effects upon weather mean that we are seeing more storms and flooding in some areas and worsening droughts in others. These cause large scale devastation, sometimes with hundreds of thousands of people being made homeless and lacking basic essentials like food, water or shelter, which in turn lead to famine, disease and long-term poverty.

In order to improve the climate, we need to make drastic changes. Although the UK may have committed to being carbon neutral by 2050, this will have no significant impact if the rest of the world doesn’t follow suit. The key to success lies in changing attitudes to climate change and here, society has a critical role to play by exposing children to the wonders of being outside.

Unfortunately, there’s plenty of research to show that this is not the case. When away from school, children are increasingly confined indoors and don’t get the opportunity to enjoy unstructured play. There are many reasons for this: fear over the child’s safety, parents too busy working, too much homework, not enough local places to play, the attraction of the internet. While the causes are many, the result is that children begin to see the outdoor world as alien. Unlike their parents did, they don’t go out to play. They don’t climb trees, throw sticks, collect conkers, roll down hills, explore woods and streams or do anything much that links them to nature. The fear is that this lack of connection with the outdoors will make them even less environmentally friendly than the generations that have gone before.

The onus, therefore, is on schools to make up for what society is failing to provide. Thankfully, there is a great deal that schools can do, on a daily basis, to get children learning and playing outdoors.

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To foster the sheer enjoyment of being outside, break and lunchtimes are best left for unstructured play and there are some fantastic pieces of outdoor playground equipment that can be used to encourage involvement. From sports and games markings to climbing frames and obstacle courses, these are great for encouraging children to have fun in the open air.

It’s not just during breaktimes, however, when the playground can play a part. Many schools are now developing their own outdoor classrooms and there is a wide range of outdoor resources available for all curriculum areas. Indeed, the outdoor learning space has a lot to offer, especially when doing active lessons or work that requires observation of the natural world, such as art, geography and science.

In addition, there has been a big increase in the number of schools providing access to nature areas. More schools are developing on-site ‘forest school’ environments, often using pre-existing grassed or garden areas of the premises. These are then added to with shrubs and trees, trellises, planters, water features, bug houses and bird feeders to give children more experience of the local flora and fauna. Nature areas are extremely popular with children who are not only fascinated with the plants and creatures but who find them peaceful havens in which to get some much-needed time out during the busy school day.

Some schools have begun to start other climate-friendly activities. One which is very popular is the ‘Walk to School Day’, which aims to get children more active and reduce pollution outside the school gates. Run once a week, these often include walking chains where children and parents will pick up classmates on-route so that no-one is left walking alone. Just imagine how much pollution could be cut If every school did this?

Taking part in such initiatives is useful in getting children and their parents to think about the environment and how they can make a positive impact. In doing so, you encourage them to develop a more caring attitude and take ownership of their actions.

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Summing up

The future of the planet lies in the hands of today’s youngsters. If we are to prevent climate change having a catastrophic impact, not only do we need to teach them about how to make the world a better place, we also need to foster the desire to care for it. You can’t do this without giving them access to the outdoors. Only by being outdoors will they develop a sense of awe and wonder at nature. As a school, you have the opportunity to make this happen.

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School competitive team sports move unveiled

Competitive team sports will be made compulsory for all primary school children in England, Prime Minister David Cameron has said.

A draft new curriculum this autumn would require participation in sports such as football, hockey and netball.

Mr Cameron has been urged to set out how he intends to secure a sporting legacy from the London 2012 Olympics.

Labour leader Ed Miliband has called on political parties to work together on a 10-year plan to boost sports activity.

‘Recognisable sports’

The prime minister has pointed to a £1bn fund for youth sport, but the government has been criticised for scrapping a target of two hours physical education a week for school children.

London Mayor Boris Johnson has called for two hours a day of compulsory sport.

Continue reading the main story

“Now the London Olympics has been a great success, we need to use the inspiration of the Games to get children playing sport more regularly”

David Cameron Prime Minister

Mr Cameron said earlier this week schools often saw the two-hour target as a maximum and told the BBC that Indian dance was being counted as physical education.

On Saturday he said the national curriculum for primary schools in England would be rewritten with an explicit reference to competitive team sports.

The new curriculum will make it compulsory to take part in “recognised and recognisable sports” and will set out requirements for “team outdoor and adventurous activity”.

Mr Cameron said: “The idea of an Olympics legacy has been built into the DNA of London 2012 from the very beginning.

“Now the London Olympics has been a great success, we need to use the inspiration of the Games to get children playing sport more regularly.”

‘Pursue dreams’

He added: “I want to use the example of competitive sport at the Olympics to lead a revival of competitive sport in primary schools.

“We need to end the ‘all must have prizes’ culture and get children playing and enjoying competitive sports from a young age, linking them up with sports clubs so they can pursue their dreams.

“That’s why the new national curriculum in the autumn will include a requirement for primary schools to provide competitive sport.”

But Philip Collins, a former speech writer for Tony Blair, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme Mr Cameron’s analysis was “about 20 years out of date” and the plans were “effectively reinstating” the Schools Sports Partnership programme – set up by Labour, and cut by the Tories in 2010.

He went on to say playing competitive sport for a school was “intrinsically exclusive” and it was “perfectly sensible to have lots of other physical activities for children who loathed PE”.

Damian Hinds, Conservative MP for East Hampshire, said competitive sport taught children “the power of a team, pushing yourself, and learning that life involves losing some things as well as winning”.

Under the last government, only two in five children took part in competitive sports within schools, with one in five regularly taking part in competitive sport with other schools, he added.

The National Association of Head Teachers has called for further investment in a wide range of school sports.

But it said the government should not seek to dictate the specific games that are played.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the head teachers’ union, said: “London 2012 has drawn the nation’s attention to the sheer breadth of sports on offer and an enduring legacy would be to see the government promote these, thereby ensuring children enjoy participating at every level. The message is diversity.”

 

Source – BBC News

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