"Children, given the time and opportunity to express themselves in healthy and constructive play, develop skills such as planning, problem solving, explaining, conversing, negotiating, sharing, staying focused, and achieving goals. These translate into curriculum areas covering numeracy, literacy, social and emotional learning and foundational experiences. In turn, this leads to better understanding in later years of concepts such as physics (construction play), geometry (movement in play, construction), and high-level thinking (role play, puppet and doll play)."
By the time a young person leaves school they will have spent about 18,000 hours in the education environment (Kindergarten to Year 12). At least one-fifth of this time is before, between and after structured lessons which is approximately 3600 hours (or nearly a full year of daylight) of potential creative play time! Even if a portion of this non-lesson time could be directed towards quality unstructured play, the benefits would be far reaching.
Our playground flows through the school property which consists of 5 hectares of sloping orchards, gardens and forest. While some of the younger classes have their own special spaces, the school play areas are shared by everyone from Preschool to Year 12.
Our school has a philosophy which places a high value on creative play. As a consequence the teachers, parents and children always include these needs in their vision of the school as it grows. A creative play environment is a place where children love to be and because it is 'their' place it is never deliberately damaged.
Within this realm our students are surrounded by bushes, bamboo, fruit trees, deciduous trees for Autumn leaves, acres of grass, water lilies, flowers, pine cones and their own vegetable gardens; rocks, ponds, sandpits, logs and stumps, stepping stones and claypits; ladybirds, beehives, dragonflies, butterflies and birds of all kinds, tadpoles, frogs, lizards, chooks, ducks, guinea pigs, rabbits and goats; hiding places and cubbies of all sizes, swings, tree houses, steps and paths, trampolines, quiet places and noisy spaces; spades and things to dig with, hammers, saws and wood to build with. But most importantly they find time.
Teachers entrusted with the care of individual classes are participants or observers of playtime depending on the kind of activities the students are engaged in. Watching children at play is of enormous benefit, for it adds to our understanding of them and invariably translates into benefits for the classroom component of school. When it's time for lesson the children regroup in their classes ready for work – which we try to make as creative and interesting as their playtime.