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Developing The Outdoor Area.


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I work as a teacher in a school Nursery. After having a really large outdoor area that we had to share with other classes, we are putting plans into place for a dedicated area solely for our use. We will still have access to the main part of the playground for wheeled toys and ball games, but we have chance to really transform a fenced off area. We will no longer have to worry about taking things in at lunchtime, or worrying about other classes trampling all over our lovely things. A development plan is also part of my professional development this year, so I really want to make sure that all of the team know what we are trying to achieve, and more importantly WHY we are doing it.

 

So firstly I am trying to make our area as big as possible, because if all 30 children decide to go outside the area should be big enough to fascilitate this. I also want to create a variety in the surfaces, not just tarmac.

 

What I wanted to ask was... in the outdoor setting where you work, or where you have visited, is there anything you would say is fantastic?

 

We are hopefully having a decent sized canopy attached to the building so that there is enough room to have a writing area and other resources under there in bad weather.

I have thought about willow structures, a digging area, planters, sand and water, a play house, some logs to sit on, maybe some tyres, wind chimes etc.

I would love it if someone could give me some really good ideas, I am very enthusistic about outdoor learning, but its so difficult when you are contsrained by the nature of your outdoor space. At this stage where I can impact on how the space evolves, I want to make sure we get it right.

thanks

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I read at a nursery this week that by 2012 all settings, including schools should be growing their own veg. I cant remember who decided it, LEA, government or other but depending on your space, could you have a small plot for a few veg? :o

What about a junk/construction area? Milk crates, planks of wood, rope, pallets, bricks, tools. xD

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Hi there

 

Your ideas sound great. I went to a children's centre last week with a fantastic out door area. There were no structures apart from a shed for storage, an open sided summer house and a covered area with an area for the children to sit at and do some art work etc

 

There was a fantastic sort of cemented bike circuit and loads of great planting, which the children were involved in. There was a water fountain which sort of trickled down a small slope (turned off in the winter months) but children are allowed free access to in the warmer weather. There was a large vegetable patch and a great outdoor stage for the children to put on shows.

 

The beauty of it was its freedom and every area looked like it was an adventure to explore.

 

What would your children like to see in the garden?

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I agree with Shelley, why not ask the children to 'design' their wish list for the outdoors. I think it needs to be a good balance of equipment/ structured ( in terms of adult ideas) to promote stimulation, to a 'balnk' canvas that enables childrens opportunity for 'creative' interpretation, freedom to do as they wish/construct themselves. Think about when you were young and outdoors, how well you as a child could make 'something out of nothing' Children don't always have the opportunity to do this nowadays because equipment/ideas are laid out for them by well intentioned adults. I'd say just keep as many resources as 'natural' as possible.

 

 

Peggy

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We had a delivery of logs from a parent recently. The children played with them, took them for rides in pushchairs, shopping trolleys etc and when they had finished they stacked them in a corner of our grassy area beside the veg patch, at the instigation of one of the other children.

 

Every day they look under the logs for insects and other wee beasties. They have learnt to treat the bugs with care and one little boy suggested we don't disturb them (the bugs) anymore by lifting their 'houses' to look underneath.

 

The novelty has worn off to some extent and transferred to the two huge tyres we took delivery of a couple of weeks ago. The tyres have been used for a dolls tea party, an orchestra, a seat to use when listening to stories, balancing on and a superhero's flying saucer! :o

 

What super play value these things are and all for free!

 

Parents............................... don't you just love 'em!! xD

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Hi there

 

Your ideas sound great. I went to a children's centre last week with a fantastic out door area. There were no structures apart from a shed for storage, an open sided summer house and a covered area with an area for the children to sit at and do some art work etc

 

There was a fantastic sort of cemented bike circuit and loads of great planting, which the children were involved in. There was a water fountain which sort of trickled down a small slope (turned off in the winter months) but children are allowed free access to in the warmer weather. There was a large vegetable patch and a great outdoor stage for the children to put on shows.

 

The beauty of it was its freedom and every area looked like it was an adventure to explore.

 

What would your children like to see in the garden?

 

 

If only we had the money!!!!! :o

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Hi Tinka

 

What about a den building area with sheets, blankets, ropes, pegs etc? I spent many a day as a child building dens with friends! I was luck enough to grow up with a large garden and space to do this. Many children don't have the luxury of a large outdoor space at home.

 

Shiny

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We went through this process Tinka, but we hadn't finished before I left so I cant say how it looks now, but this is sort of what process we went through.

 

1. we looked at the area we had to develop, measured it and drew a roughly to scale plan (it was a very odd shape).

2. We visited a couple of other places that had done interesting things with their areas, trying to focus on places that had similar circumstances to our own (eg small space, children without gardens, very little money etc etc).

3. We put together a working party of interested staff and parents and their fields of expertise (eg one person was really good at tapping resources for funding, one was happy to do leg work, one had good community contacts).

4. We asked the children what they wanted, what they liked/didn't like about what we already had. We asked the older children to remember back to when they were 3-4 (this was year 1-2) and suggest what they liked/didn't like and what they would have liked to have.

5. We started to draw up plans of what we wanted and where, what was practical, what wasn't.

6. We broke the tasks down into manageable lumps, and selected one project at a time (making the whole project to go over a few years mainly because of money!!).

7. We tapped funding bodies or help bodies for which we had a project proposal person in out team..her sole job was to write proposals to get funding! We were successful with 2 bids because we had bee very organised about what we were doing.

8. We got the first 3 projects down, which were quite small, one was to remove plants and weeds to create space fr raised beds, the next was to create the raised beds which would include wheelchair access. It doesn't sound like much but it was literally one step at a time.

The next step was after left which was to build an 'outdoor classroom', for which we got further funding from a grant.

 

I dont know if that helps, but if you are looking at a project that you want to keep a long time, please take time over developing it.

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Our outside area is very small and cannot have anything permanent as it is at the front of the church and I thought we would be limited in what we could provide.

 

We took the children outside and explained we wanted to know what they would like to play with out there and pointed out the sorts of things we could and couldn't have. They then went back in and we did a huge mindmap which gave them ownership. Over the weeks we used it as a plan for setting up the area and had it up on the wall so the parents could see what their children had suggested. Some provided resources, others gave their time to help set up or put away at the end of each session. Over the period the children wanted to add more things to the mindmap too.

 

There! You've got me thinking! I might do another mindmap next week with my new keyworker group! Thank you!

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We have an allotment but it is across two roads so involves organising adult support to visit ... BUT the head has discovered we actually own allotments which adjoin the school field so future plan is fence off one and to put an access gate from the field. :o

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:o Hi Tinka

 

I will warn you we are so enthused about the outdoor enviroment that I may run on, so I appologise now.

 

We are in the process of developing our outside area, and the huge change we have seen in the childrens own learning. We've been working on it for the past year and still have another years work planned out. We found visiting a few places that had already developed their outside invaluable. We drew up out plans from the ideas we'd seen, the childrens ideas of what they would like to do, from reasearch on the internet and books. My Staff through their ideas in, and we are in the process giving staff a responsibility for keeping on top of each 'zoned' area.

 

The usual sand area with storage trays for easy access, complete with natural items such as stones, shells, pine cones etc for sizing, ordering, counting etc.

 

We have a bird table and insect logs in our Wildlife, a Bog gardenwhich attracted frogs, Veg patch and a Sensory area, which is raised for accessability for all. Mud pies, fantastic! The children grow peas, carrots, potatoes etc which we then eat raw or cut up for our cook to serve at lunch time. The plastic green house holds pots, trowels, gloves etc for children to use ad self access. Last year the children loved pulling up carrots, washing then and nibbling them like rabbits. This spontanous play ended up running into planning as children wanted to know more about rabbits.

 

We have a 'Construction zone' with tyres, decking planks, milk crates, ropes etc on a safety tiled area, with outdoor mirrors on one side. It's so inspiring to see how the children work together, plan, re-evaluate what doesn't work, and try again without any adult intervention.

 

The children have access to water all the time from the water butt positioned to catch the rain from the covered area and shed roof. We plan to fix some of the guttering and pipes to the wall to form a kind of puzzle water fall. We have buckets of varying sizes some of which will have holes in soon to promote problem solving in their transporting activities.

 

Writing area also in a plastic greenhouse stocked with all the items found indoors. An painting easel and aprons, with a large blackboard to follow soon.

 

A Windy line with hanging ribbons, windsock so that children can see the wind direction and strength.

 

This year we are planning a 'Music zone' on a decked area provide some different level and a slope that will serve many purposes. We will be hanging pots and pans etc and big barrels for drums. A quiet area is a must for this year so children can sit an look at books under the pogoda in the shade of the grape vines. Hopefully we can then pick our own grapes in a year or two with a bit of luck, and sunshine. An fixed elastic rope with buckets attached so that children can weigh things. A concreted golf ball balancing snake on the concrete area. Targets on the walls.

 

Once you start and see the difference it makes to the childrens learning, the more opportunities you'll want them to have at your finger tips. Wish all day everyday could be spent outside. Get rid of the ride-ons, don't have them out, stand back and observe. Hopefully you will be as amazed as us. Give them the opportunity to take risks in safe evaluated play. My first observation of some of our 2 year olds trying to walk along the milk crates were fasinating. They stood on the edges a few times, and slipped, they tried again and again, carefully placing thier feet, you could see their little brains ticking, till eventually after 15 minutes or so they found out that placing their feet in the middle of the crate, it was then stable. There was no stopping them after that. You have to be prepared for a few scrapes and bruses, and prepare parents with why you are doing theses things, and the value to the children's learning. The fact they come home with a few scratches and clothes slightly dirty is because...... Wall displays with photos and explanations of learning is a way we've found valuable.

 

Hope this may help you to get the most out of your outdoor area. It sounds as if you have a great space which to develop. Good luck and hope you get as much enjoyment as we are from the hardwork.

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I too am developing our outside provision. We have two areas which we use on a regular basis but not when the weather is wet. Does anyone have ideas for shelters. One area is at the front of our school so needs to look reasonable and the other faces the road so again looks will be important. we have had quotes for canopies but are talking about a large amount of money, this needs to be budgetted for and I am rather impatient!!!

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welcome pooh, I see you've been with us a while so thanks for making your first post.

 

There's a company called gazebos for schools that do very reasonably priced wooden shelters and pergolas, I don't know if they have website but it might be worth a search. They are well worth the money.

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welcome pooh, I see you've been with us a while so thanks for making your first post.

 

There's a company called gazebos for schools that do very reasonably priced wooden shelters and pergolas, I don't know if they have website but it might be worth a search. They are well worth the money.

 

 

The Nursery school has just had a lovely outdoor play area canopy installed by a company called Canopies UK who they said were reccomended to them. We are also looking for a canopy at the Infants that will be a lot bigger and wondered if anyone else had used this company ? Their website is www.canopiesuk.com but I have attached a picture of the Nursery canopy

 

Any information is much appreciated, because we need to make a decision imminently ?

 

Thanks

 

Kelly

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As I have moaned a few times :o they are chopping down our lovely mature trees to build our new Children's Centre so have come up with the solution of providing a canopy area to provide shade... at a cost of ....wait for it...£10 000!

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Welcome to the forum :o

 

 

We have given Canopies UK the go ahead with the canopy, they had installed at a couple of local schools which we went round to view and they were recomended. Will let you know the results when it has been installed !

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I hope this helps a little.

If you have a Co-op store around your area - they can offer funding for community projects.

We were very lucky that we were eligible for funding and they also elected to help us build and dress our outdoor area.

It's called the Community Dividend.

They have leaflets at any store even the little ones.

They want to promote and encourage community spirit and they have helped many organisations with funding.

I would strongly recommend you fill a form in.

Chubby

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