By Sandie Bray,

  Filed under: Uncategorised

I wrote earlier in the year in an article titled ‘Where shall we play today?’ about our plans to develop differentiated play spaces within the Junior School that help support the diverse needs and interests of our students. After a successful planting day at the end of last term which promoted a sense of shared ownership amongst staff and students for our garden spaces and lifted the feel of the campus, we are excited to move onto the next stage of our outdoor plan which involves establishing a loose parts and construction zone under the C4C for students in Years 3 to 6.

The purpose of the Construction Zone is to provide students with an open area that invites and promotes curiosity, imagination, creativity, challenge and engagement. Alongside encouraging the inquisitive minds of our students to design, build and create we want to provide daily opportunities for our students to build positive peer relationships, effective communication skills, greater resilience and perseverance at tasks.

Using loose parts such as sticks and natural materials in such a zone allows students to engage with their natural environment, collaborate with others, make decisions and problem solve. Sticks can be moved, carried, combined, re-designed, lined up, taken apart, engineered and be put back together in an infinite number of ways. To a child, a stick can be a horse, a guitar, part of a fort, a shelter, a measuring device, a tower, a stirring spoon for a magic potion pot, a magician’s wand or the edge of a castle’s moat.

Of course, a valid and common concern voiced in using sticks for such play at school surrounds potential hazards and student safety. There is the need to consider both the risks and benefits of any activity undertaken within a school. We want our students to be safe.

With this is mind we have looked into how other schools have successfully and safely introduced sticks construction into their yards. In our discussions with organisations such as Nature Play SA, of which we are a member school, we discovered that there is a process that schools follow where the students are included in the discussion and decision making process around formulating guidelines and rules about stick usage. Explicit teaching occurs.

Before allowing our students to explore the world of sticks at recess and lunchtime play, time will be set aside the week before for classes in Years 3 to 6 to explore the construction zone. Classes will sit down to discuss with their teacher how and where the sticks will be used. Together they will co-constructed the rules, expectations and consequences. They will discuss and create a shared understanding with the students about safe play and potential risks. In essence, they will form a mutual ‘stick agreement’.  We believe including students in this process will empower them to take greater ownership and responsibility for their actions. It will also help them to develop a greater awareness about their environment, how it needs to be respected and how we can keep our students within it safe.

As the students familiarise themselves with the construction area and show their ability to use the space purposefully, other loose part items, extending on from the Junior Primary Play Pod concept will be introduced.

To start off this process we are inviting students from Years 3 to 6 to ‘Bring a Stick to School’ in Week 1 of next term. Sticks need to be sturdy, without sharp ends and can be brought in from home, streets or farms. It is important that they not to be taken from national parks or reserves unless permission is given.

On arrival, the sticks can be placed in the sectioned off construction zone under the C4C.

After initial discussions with the student from the SRC committee, we know they are keen to add this activity to their options for play. To support this initiative, students from the SRC will be organising information and details to share at Assembly and with classes.

Thank you for your support and BEWARE – STICK CONSTRUCTION IN PROGRESS.

Bronwyn Sharpe

Primary Co-ordinator