Outdoor Activity Grant from the WPA Foundation
Outdoor Activity Grant for Air Class
Last year we were invited to bid for money to develop outdoor activity spaces, as a significant grant was being offered to Somerset schools by the WPA Foundation. In the end, 43 schools benefited from the fund: we received a grant of £2,700.
Though the children of Air Class already enjoyed a small, outdoor, independent activity area, we were keen to expand its size and facilities in order for the children to be able to work and play outside as much as possible throughout the year, to further develop their physical and mental health and well-being. The grant provided by the WPA Foundation has been fundamental to us achieving this, and we are truly grateful for their vision and financial support.
Expanding the safe outdoor area space
We started by installing 2 fences with gates. This enabled us to expand the safe and secure area for the children to work and play in independently. Approximately one third of the outdoor space is now under-cover, all weather surface; one third is uncovered, all weather surface; one third is an uncovered garden area. We are extending the covered-area so that the children can take part in a wider range of activities outside, no matter the weather or time of year.
The impact of this extra space is that the children have more freedom to develop their imaginations, can engage in physical activities that were not possible before, and can develop their communications skills in new and different ways; all of which is outside. They absolutely love the space, and make use of it on a daily basis.
Our previous playhouse was old, small and beginning to rot; it was becoming unsafe for the children to use. This has been removed (many thanks to the Millers), the site cleared and a new, larger playhouse erected and painted with preservative. Some existing role-play equipment has been put inside, though the playhouse’s purpose has not been pre-determined: the children, either individually or as a group, can use their own ideas and imagination to make use of this space and in all weather conditions. To date I have seen children use it as a home, a hospital, Tim Peake’s space station, a garage for repairing cars and a school.
The children’s endless ideas ensure that its possible uses are infinite, whilst at the same time it helps in developing their relationship and communication skills, as well as allowing them to express themselves in real-world and imagined situations.
Our outside area contained a raised bed, though this was small and was overgrown with large shrubs and weeds. This area has now been cleared and raised further. It has been covered with non-toxic weed suppressing plastic in order to kill off the remaining weeds. Eventually, we intend to start growing aromatic herbs and plants, as well as fruit and vegetables to help develop the children’s understanding of healthy eating. There are bug-houses in the outdoor area to encourage pollinating insects into the vicinity, and improve the children’s understanding of the entire life-cycle of food production.
All Weather Independent Play
As well as the items pictured above, we have a number of other items for the children to use outdoors for imaginative, independent role-play whilst at the same time developing their strength, coordination, core stability and motor skills:
- a play tunnel and velcro-target game (pictured above with the raised bed)
- a range of sand and water toys, to use in the sandpit and with our existing water equipment
- a shot trainer and quilts game set
Recycled Water Wall
The final area for development from the grant monies is our Recycled Water Wall. This involves the installation of a construction wall using trellis and elastic loops, and will be infinitely configurable by the children, using recycled water (collected in our rainwater butt) and recycled materials (e.g. drinks bottles, food containers, old kitchen equipment) to create water pathways. This will provide opportunities for the children to increase their appreciation of the value of resources through fun activities that also develop their strength, coordination and motor skills. This project is to be undertaken by the children, and once finished, will be a permanent, though endlessly changing, addition to our outdoor activities.