The concrete jungle. A place where mindsets are fixed and nothing flourishes.
But is that true?
I spent most of my teaching career in schools where the concrete playground was the dominant feature. If we were lucky we might have had a grassy field but that was all. And the grassy field, well, it tended to have even less signs of life than the concrete areas.
Our playground visits have allowed me to have a real nose around over 200 playgrounds this academic year alone! What I have discovered is no surprise, the vast majority of schools are the exact same. There are a few with amazing playgorunds, but they are few and far between.
Would you like to know a secret, even the schools with the most amazing playgrounds can find outdoor learning hard. Even the schools who do a lot outside feel like they are not doing enough and need to improve. (that goes back to one of the first thing a teacher is taught is how to crit themselves and their practice).
But the true secret, the one that isn’t often shared, outdoor learning really can happen anywhere.
You do not need green spaces for outdoor learning. (please know I am not against them, I am Forest School trained after all!). You really can take learning outside anywhere.
The key thing is mindset. Can a cold desolate playground help create an amazing story? Yes! Can the sole pigeon or seagull inspire some discussions on what animals need to survive? Yes! Can the concrete provide an expanse to allow for chalk games, writing and more? Yes, yes, yes!
There is so much we can do outside. It is how I spent most of my teaching career – in the concrete playground. It is something I love working with schools on. Helping them realise they do not need oodles of equipment but just a change in mindset, a few different ideas and some support and suddenly that concrete playground can be a learning space as well!
I challenge you, next time you are in a concrete jungle, whether that is your street, your school playground, the carpark at the leisure centre, have a look. See if it really is as desolate as you think. Or are there signs of life, of birds, insects, maybe a weed or three… let us know what you find