Outdoor Play and Learning Program for Schools

We’re on a mission to bring back what has been disappearing from childhood for decades – the time, space and permission for children and youth to play outdoors in a freely chosen, intrinsically motivated and self-directed way.

The school day is structured to accommodate outdoor play during recess, lunch and after school, but studies show that only 9% of children aged 5-17 get the 60 minutes of heart-pumping activity they need each day.

Earth Day Canada is working to bring a comprehensive play strategy to schools across Canada to support creative and diverse outdoor play experiences, so children can explore their imaginations, their physicality, their friendships and the world around them.

Honouring a child’s right to play

OPAL is the first program in Canada that aims to make play an integral part of the school day. Children engage in self-directed play with “loose parts” (tools, boxes, spare tires, fabric, etc.), boosting their sense of agency and creating a more inclusive and reciprocal social environment.

OPAL is grounded in the child’s right to play and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Canada is a signatory.

In partnership with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), the OPAL program will roll out to 42 schools by 2020. Our goal is to bring the program to schools across the country.

Watch what students and teachers have to say:

How does OPAL work?


A school board partners with Earth Day Canada, and convenes a lead team of teachers, parents and support staff to implement the program


OPAL mentors facilitate playdays, workshops, events and parent outreach, leading to the development of a school-wide play policy


“Loose parts” are introduced and strategic design improvements are made to prioritize play value for students


Program roll-out is evaluated and schools receive recognition with awards at a “celebration of play” assembly

Our Outdoor Play and Learning (OPAL) program for schools is informed by the best practices and key findings of an independent review of the OPAL program in the United Kingdom, where it originated.

Download these free resources

Supporting better outdoor play at school

How to make Playtime Part of the School Day

Our partners at OPAL UK have some excellent tools and resources

Get in touch!

For more information on the Outdoor Play and Learning Program or to inquire about hosting a POP-UP Adventure Playground, please email play@earthday.ca or call Earth Day Canada at 416-599-1991 and ask to speak with a member of our Play team.

Linda Naccarato

Education Consultant