outstanding outdoor spaces

Spinney Hill Primary School, Leicestershire

Creepy crawlies and planting sunflowers have helped the children at Spinney Hill Primary School understand the importance of caring for the environment. They tell us how their new playground has given them the chance to get their hands dirty.
Why did you want to develop your playground?
As part of working on a healthy, sustainable school agenda we wanted to develop our playground into a space where children could get their hands dirty with nature. Creating a space with an environmental message would allow us to show our pupils the importance of interacting with nature for them and the environment. We felt the best way to do this would be to make it fun and with equipment that could be incorporated into learning and curriculum too.

What were the key elements that made Playforce stand out from other providers?
We felt as though we were spoilt for choice when we were looking at the Playforce brochure. There was equipment suitable for our requirements, available in all shapes and sizes. The team helped us shortlist the best ones for our space and worked with us and the children to choose the perfect combination. They kept us informed at all stages of the process and we barely noticed they were there during the build.
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Since developing the playground the children have become much more aware of their natural surroundings. They are beginning to understand why they should care for the environment and we hope that these lessons will stay with them for life.
How are you using the space to deliver outdoor learning and educational play?
Our new natural play space is used in lessons to teach children about the environment, and enjoyed during the rest of the day too. The Mini Beast Exploration Table lets them see real-life examples of creepy crawlies and we can use the chalkboard to draw diagrams and label all the bits of the creatures. The Seating Planter has been filled with seeds and bulbs ready to blossom throughout the year. The children have loved digging in the dirt and learning about the plants as they sow them.

What are the biggest benefits you have seen for the children?
Since developing the playground the children have become much more aware of their natural surroundings. They are beginning to understand why they should care for the environment and we hope that these lessons will stay with them for life. The gardening tips they have learnt at school are going home with them and they are continuing to take part in outdoor play after the school day has ended.
Can you share any practice insights you have gained?
To continue teaching children about the environment away from the playground, introduce eco-friendly activities into the classroom too. Make recycling a norm in the classroom and show pupils how the school is helping the environment by reducing waste and using natural sources.
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