Being a teacher, it’s easy to
However, one of the most affordable and often forgotten areas of the school environment is the playground which, if considered properly, can have a notable impact of student satisfaction and happiness. This short post is about school playgrounds, what they offer students and why they actually matter. Not only should this be useful for other teachers or school employees but hopefully, parents will get an idea of what to look for in a good school playground and why keeping the outdoor environment in mind when selecting your child’s school is important. Let’s get into it.
Physical Challenge and Confidence Growth
The first and most obvious advantage of a good school playground is that it offers students a safe space to physically exert and challenge themselves. The clear advantage of this is that it’s healthy; exercise promotes good blood flow, weight loss and a release of endorphins, boosting your overall mood. Considering that the UK is currently undergoing an obesity crisis and statistically, Britain’s children are some of the least active in the world, it’s incredibly important that we create engaging and enjoyable playground spaces.
The other point to keep in mind is that these physical challenges have another major advantage; they improve confidence. Children, just like adults, generally feel very uncomfortable trying things that they have never done before. Overcoming this natural fear and realising that you can achieve whatever you put your mind to is a fundamental life skill that everyone can benefit from.
In an effective school playground, the physical challenges that are presented balance safety with difficulty. The children won’t immediately leap onto the equipment without fear; instead, they will test the waters and take their time until finally, they know how to use the equipment easily. The process of tackling a problem, breaking it down and then achieving success at the end is almost like a lesson for young minds. They begin to realise that even if they have never done something before, they might still be able to do it. This translates into the classroom and life in general.
Next on our list is social development. The school playground is a very complex space. Cliques and friendship groups form and break regularly, whilst different groups inhabit different areas of the school and claim them as their own. This is because break and lunch periods are the only times throughout the day when children can communicate with each other freely.
Communication is another fundamental life skill that is extremely difficult to formally teach in the classroom. The best lesson is trial and error, which is why the most effective school playground equipment offers physical challenges whilst simultaneously promoting conversation and interaction.
Puzzles are a brilliant example of this. A challenging puzzle or team game demands that children think (and often move around) whilst discussing and conversing with others. The subtle social cues and the understanding of body language that is learnt through these school playground exercises is invaluable in later life and shouldn’t be overlooked.
Classroom Focus and Attainment
Finally, we can talk about one of the most important points from a school’s perspective – student achievement. A school’s primary purpose is to create an environment where students learn and get the best grades that they can. Not only is this the fundamental desire that you must have to become a good teacher, but it also helps the school receive greater recognition, increased applicants and ultimately, more funding to improve the environment even more.
A good school playground is a fundamental part of improving student grades for two main reasons.
Firstly, as most people talk about, physical exercise gets you ready to learn. After break time, children have increased blood flow and more endorphins in their system, encouraging them to enter the classroom with a positive mindset and more prepared to learn. As mentioned in the link above, there is research to support this statement which means that giving children a good space to run around is an effective way of improving their school results.
The other, less spoken about reason is what was mentioned earlier in this post about confidence. Children who engage in challenges in the playground and achieve them are more responsive in the classroom. Every teacher has had children that say, “I can’t.” or “I don’t know how.” When presented with a new problem. Giving young minds the space to experiment and realise their potential to achieve, even when they aren’t experienced in an activity, is a brilliant way of combatting this attitude and promoting constructive, analytical problem solving. A good playground will offer these exact challenges, giving children time to explore what they can do at their own pace.
Using this information, you should have a much better idea of why school playgrounds do matter in the school environment. Parents, look out for school playgrounds with a variety of activities that vary in difficulty so that there is always something to challenge your child. Teachers, if you notice that your students aren’t using your school playground equipment much, think about adding variation or giving your playground an overhaul, it might make a notable difference.