Challenge: Play is characterized by freedom, self-discovery and creativity. Children learn best through play because we are hardwired to learn through direct experience, not abstract thinking. How can we provide the best play and learning value?
Solution: The key is diversity; provide creative play opportunities, and visual, spatial and sensory diversity. Play structures alone do not provide adequate creative play opportunities. Natural elements like plants, water, and animals are correlated with increased cognitive functioning because they provide all that. A mix of spaces from social to solitary, and active to creative accommodate a range of learning styles, stages of development and provide play leadership opportunities.
Challenge: While the playground committee wanted a natural area, they were concerned about more maintenance, and the lack of volunteers.
Solution: If a natural area is really something that students are asking for, then that's all the maintenance staff you'll ever need! Questionnaires completed by the students indicated the top requested improvement was indeed a natural play area. Because we engaged them in this way, they feel that their input is valued, they have ownership of this idea, and are likely to accept responsibility. If you want children to learn that they are stewards of the planet, then provide the opportunity right here for them to understand that their care is required.