Outdoor Play And Learning
Welcome to OPAL at SSIS
OPAL is our ‘short cut’ way of saying ‘Outdoor Play and Learning’.
Many of our most enjoyable childhood memories involve outdoor play simply because it is so interesting, absorbing, care-free and fun!
Often, when we ask the children at SSIS what they’ve enjoyed learning each year, the memories they share involved play, happened outside, kept them engaged and generated lots of fun!
Outdoor play and learning is also promoted on trips to outdoor venues like Bristol Zoo, Westonbirt Arboretum, Bristol and Court Farm.
SSIS has been awarded an OPAL Gold Standard for or provision
OPAL promotes our vision, supports all areas of our curriculum and provides a foundation for much of our learning.
Promoting Outdoor Play and Learning
Research has shown that the level of children’s play rises when adults play with them. The variety of play that children engage in also increases when adults join in.
Here are a few things we’ve found work well when promoting children’s outdoor play and learning.
Hopefully you’ll find some of them useful as you play along with your child.
1. We role-model positive attitudes towards play.
We encourage play and provide a balance of indoor and outdoor play throughout the year.
When we join in the play, it is important that we’re guiding, shaping, engaging in and extending play, rather than directing, dictating or dominating it.
2. We prepare and develop appropriate outdoor zones.
We offer a variety of materials and experiences at varying levels of difficulty. We’ve found that the choice of materials is important for learning because it provides the motivation for children’s individual exploration and discovery.
We provide outdoor play zones that allow children to make choices and explore play possibilities. They include exploratory zones such as the forest and pond, physical zones such as the trim trail and climbing wall, reflective zones which mirror daily living experiences such as the play house and social zones such as ‘playpod’.
3. We take time to watch children in their play and learning.
Observation is an ongoing process which provides us with information about the child’s interests, abilities, strengths, and opportunities for further learning and development.
Observations help us identify ways we can build on, plan for and guide an individual’s play and learning.
4. We promote play and opportunities for discoveries.
We enhance or facilitate play by encouraging children to bring their interests and experiences into the play.
We ask questions to expand and enhance play.
The Importance and Value of Play
Play is so important, that the United Nations have recognised it as a specific right for all children, ‘Children need the freedom to explore and play’.
At St. Stephen’s we value play as it paves the way for learning and nourishes every aspect of a child’s development.– it forms the foundation of intellectual, social, physical, and emotional skills necessary for success in school and in life.
We understand that play allows a child’s brain to achieve it’s optimal development by presenting it with opportunities to make important links and build connections. We are aware that the early years of a child’s development from birth to age six, sets the basis for learning, behaviour, and health throughout life.
We know that children have a natural curiosity, so play is a great way of letting them actively explore and make sense of their world.
Outdoor play and learning happens while children pond-dip, build a den together, swing across monkey bars or play make-believe.
During the experiences of play, children are learning to try new things, solve problems, express themselves, invent, imagine, create, question, test ideas, take risks and explore.
Play is also time spent building new knowledge from previous experience.
Through make-believe games children can be anyone they wish and go anywhere they want.
When they engage in ‘life-imitation play’, they learn how to cope with feelings, how to bring the large, confusing world into a small, manageable size; and how to become socially adept as they share, take turns and cooperate with each other.
When children play, they are learning empathy, co-operation, another’s perspective and how to be flexible.
Researcher Charles E. Pascel, put it so well when he said,
"Play is serious business for the development of young learners. A deliberate and effective play-based approach supports young children’s development. When well designed, such an approach taps into children’s individual interests, draws out their emerging capacities, and responds to their sense of inquiry and exploration of the world around them. It generates highly motivated children enjoying an environment where the learning outcomes of a curriculum are more likely to be achieved”.