In addition to surveying parents and students, Churchill’s Schoolyard Rejuvenation Committee surveyed teachers in the Spring of 2016 about the schoolyard. The following is a summary of their feedback:
Question: Do you use any parts of the playground to meet the curriculum? If so, please explain.
Teachers spoke to a wide range of subjects that they teach in different parts of the schoolyard:
- Back to Nature is well-used for a range of subjects including science (plants, soil, animals), arts and language (poetry, creative writing, photography, art), social studies (mapping, first nation studies) as well as mindfulness, nature exploration, release of butterflies, and more.
- The Lower Yard’s uses include phys ed / DPA and games including parachute games, dramatic play and running games. The pavement is also used for math, French, gym, art.
- The Upper Yard’s uses include fine motor and social skill building activities, art/drama, phys ed / DPA; the structures can be useful to teach science (gravity / forces); the sand area is used to expand the play with materials that students have been using in class.
- The Stage is used for group discussions, writing activities, outdoor math time, and silent reading.
- The Garden is used to teach about soils and plants.
- Ramps (on the deck and by the upper yard) are used to teach science.
- The yard is also broadly used for math (number sense and numeracy, measurement, geometry, shape scavenger hunts); language arts (poetry, writing, practicing vocabulary and time using chalk on the asphalt); art (e.g. sun shadow art); phys ed / DPA and outdoor games to make the learning fun; and science (e.g. observing seasonal changes)
Question: Please identify two or three problem areas in the yard
Teachers identified a number of problems with the yard including drainage issues, blind spots, lack of nature and green spaces, lack of shade, lack of toys for imagination play, challenges with a big open lower yard that has no demarcated areas for different activities, and a lack of space to run and play.
These issues are being mapped onto the school site plan and will be available in the near future.
Question: How would you improve the grounds? Many different ideas were put forward:
Develop an outdoor seating area / classroom space: “I like the idea of an outdoor classroom space. A place where an entire class could work.”
More grass and nature: “In the schoolyard we need less pavement…more grass, trees, tables.” “Incorporating a grass area for the children to sit do small group activities on.” “More nature materials (rocks, logs, wooden ramp, small house, spider web made of ropes for climbing)” “Put flower bins in huge pots; plant vines on the fences”.
Designate active play facilitators (e.g. “Grade six “leaders” could organize pickup basketball and soccer for younger students, help with reffing and sharing the rules”; or there could be more adult-led games and activities)
Make the yard more appealing (e.g. add colour on walls, fences and grounds; add some turf beside the cement; have a school sweep up in the spring).
Enhance gross motor activities:
- More structure variety and climbing opportunities in the upper yard (e.g. ropes, bars, balance beams, variety of natural structures; huge rocks to climb on; simple rope net for climbing).
- Divide the lower yard more effectively into different areas (e.g for soccer, basketball, etc..); this could involve painting games and lines onto the asphalt. The basketball nets could also be removed.
- Provide better sports equipment / opportunities (e.g. better soccer equipment, more balls and Frisbees, ga ga game, new nets for the basketball posts, hop scotch games, an area to run in without obstacles, sleds in winter, and having the lines for the four square etc redone).
- Provide a variety of activities like classroom centers: “break giant bubbles, hopscotch, dance party, a half tree log to practice balance, sensory area” “Back to nature water features and play outdoor kitchen. Gardens.”
- Have an area for gross motor development such as riding tricycles (for kindergarteners)
- Use a connected trail around the school
Enhance social play:
- Provide a variety of toys, games and activities (e.g. art activities, easy to transport bins with dramatic play items, books; games like twister, large chess; more sand toys; plastic building blocks; painting games on the asphalt; providing activities that promote social interactions among many children)
- Ensure that the yard has a variety of spaces (sheltered areas; music corner; outdoor games corner with weatherproof cards / checkers etc; fort / house-like area; drama area on the stage; tables or quiet spaces to encourage small groups to socialize)
- Teachers noted that a number of areas are currently well-used for social play: in the upper yard with gymnastic/cartwheels in the sand, children playing in the sand, sitting on the benches sharing their books, and students playing soccer games, skipping and four square together.
Enhance cognitive play:
- Provide board games (portable board games in the spring / summer (tic tac toe, manacala, cards, bean bag toss game; draw lines for a big chess game; provide chess boards and tic-tac-toe on small tables)
- Provide creative activities such as weaving / loom in back to nature; strategy games / outdoor play / classroom in Back to Nature area; fence weaving corner, wood scrubs corner for building bridges/towers; social games, and opening up the back to nature area more frequently for creative free writing, drawing, reading etc
- Support more games like Connect Four and Shlockey where lots of thinking has to happen.
- Provide equipment for digging and building in both summer and winter.
Enhance quiet play:
- Teachers spoke to the idea of providing benches, nooks, and other designated quiet areas (e.g. reading corners, seating in areas that are protected by the elements, creative nooks and other small spaces, grassy area with tree stumps for sitting, reading and socializing with others).
In summary many, many ideas were put forward that will be taken into consideration as plans move forward to rejuvenate the schoolyard.