The playground is one of the least understood parts of the school environment. To many, the school playground is an entirely recreational space that is nice to have but shouldn’t be focused on in a place of education. The truth is that, along with every other aspect of the school environment, the playground has a significant impact on students, as well as their attainment and achievements overall.
As investors in learning through play, Kompan, as well as countless scientific research bodies, have found that play and learning are intrinsically connected. For children, the school day makes up a huge portion of their time but even so, the most developmentally impactful activity that they undergo will almost always occur during play.
Building on this, one of the only spaces where children are able to play freely and under their own rules is within the school playground. In the home, children are often being managed by their parents and at school, they are supervised by their teachers; on the playground, they have much more freedom to do and play as they please. This is what makes the school playground such an impactful developmental space, not only from the perspective of social and life skills but also regarding academics.
High academic achievement is the result of many different factors. Learning capacity and instruction obviously play an important role, but many discount the value a healthy school environment can have on students. With a good school environment comes a positive attitude towards school and towards learning. The school playground plays a big role in enriching the school environment which, in turn, makes it essential for improving overall academic growth and behaviour.
With this knowledge, it makes sense to ensure that your school playground space is as effective as possible, driving student growth rather than opening the door to poor behaviour and low engagement. Keep an eye out for the following areas of improvement within your playground environment to ensure it is having as much of a positive impact as possible.
A tidy environment not only promotes good treatment of the surrounding area; it also decreases stress and negative behaviour within the playground. In a similar way to adults, students subliminally value well-kept spaces even if they are messy themselves. Furthermore, everyone is more likely to maintain a space effectively if they find it looking pristine.
On the flip side, if your school playground is messy and litter filled, it makes play less enjoyable and suggests that creating a mess is acceptable. Overall, ugly, messy playgrounds paint a poor picture of the school environment and are easily noticed by teachers, parents and students alike. Always try to ensure that the playground is left in a presentable state.
Damaged equipment doesn’t just prevent students from fully enjoying their recreational space, it also creates a behavioural challenge that is significantly more difficult to manage. As previously mentioned, the school playground is one of the only spaces where children can truly manage themselves during play. This subliminal association with the school playground and increased freedom makes children more mischievous and so when they are presented with something that they shouldn’t do, or shouldn’t use, they are more likely to try anyway.
In a school playground full of children, this is particularly difficult for supervisors to keep on top of, especially if there are multiple restricted areas. To avoid this, consider restricted play areas a last resort and instead, focus efforts on teaching the children how to use the equipment correctly, or even get them involved in fixing it if that is a safe option. This encourages care for the equipment, increasing its lifespan and creating a much healthier relationship with the school environment.
Just like adults, every child is unique. Tastes, interests and hobbies vary from student to student, which is part of what makes the school environment so complex and challenging to work with. In the playground, this huge variation in preferences is equally difficult to deal with but must still be considered to create the most impactful and enriching recreational space.
Some children love to be active during their break periods, so the inclusion of climbing structures, activity trails and anything involving balance or movement is absolutely essential for your school playground. Equally, other young minds prefer to use their imagination to weave stories, making themed playground equipment more appropriate. Others might like to stay calm and relaxed, solving puzzles or building things, the list is all but endless.
What’s most important to keep in mind is appealing to all of these groups. It’s challenging to make everyone happy but creating a varied playground naturally makes it engaging because every child will be drawn to something, whether it’s large or small.
We have created countless school playgrounds, each designed to cater to multiple different types of student. Create a playground that excites every one of your students and you are bound to see the effects in the classroom and in their attitude.
Finally, make sure that your school playground has enough meeting points. Part of why school playgrounds are so beneficial is because they serve as a space where children can interact with one another without restriction. Social skills, empathy and emotional intelligence are what make us human. These skills are impossible to formally teach because they are driven by body language and subtle behaviours. The only way to truly learn them is through experience.
Meeting points create a space where children can sit and talk to one another. The difference between a meeting point and a simple chair is that they are interesting and exciting. Meeting points draw the attention of the school pupils and provide them with a platform for conversation, rather than activities to use up their time.
Ensuring that you have engaging, eye-catching meeting points is incredibly important for creating a healthy school environment. Empathetic children that can understand the feelings of other students are much better at adapting to the environments they find themselves in, avoiding conflict and making meaningful friendships more easily. These relationships sit at the heart of any school environment and promote both growth and academic achievement across the board.
Whether you are looking for growth in a specific area of your school’s culture, or simply want to see what techniques you can use to improve attention in lessons, consider revitalising your school playground.
At Kompan, we have spent over 45 years designing school playgrounds from the ground up using award-winning playground equipment. Get in touch with a member of our team today and we will gladly provide you with bespoke advice based around your needs, goals and school playground requirements.