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#FreeYourPlay with Kamik and Earth Day Canada

Earth Day Canada is working with outdoor outfitters Kamik to get kids outside this Earth Day and create the next generation of environmental leaders.

Outdoor play is a crucial pillar of environmental education. Children need to experience the outdoors through self-directed play in order to interact with nature, learn about it, care about it, and develop the agency needed to take action on reversing and preventing climate change. Research also shows that outdoor free play supports the development of the whole child – cognitive, social, emotional, and physical skills – and contributes to school success.

Many Take Actions from the start of the school year have focused on playing with loose parts outside – whatever the weather. We want to build on this and help you find ways to encourage and enhance outdoor play at your school. This Earth Day, take all of that learning and hold an extra or extended recess. Or go all out – host an Adventure Play Day!

Hold an extra or extended recess: Demonstrate your school’s commitment to outdoor free play. Support accessible and inclusive play by bringing out loose parts. Consider setting up a temporary mud kitchen!

Host an Adventure Play Day: Provide an opportunity for students to connect to nature through outdoor play by hosting an Adventure Play Day! Provide a variety of natural and upcycled materials (loose parts), and transform your schoolyard into an adventure playground where all sorts of neat and unexpected things can be created, constructed, and organized.

How to host an Adventure Play Day

Set up a play day team

Gather a core group of five to six staff to facilitate this fun day! Put together a team of play champions: two teachers, an administrator, a couple of parents, and maybe a caretaker to lead the collection and organization of loose parts and event delivery.

Announce the day

Let the whole school know! Spread the word via student-made posters, social media, newsletters, and morning announcements.

Start a loose parts collection

Four loose parts per child will likely ensure you will have enough loose parts for everyone. They should be easy-to-source, free, or reusable materials that can ideally be recycled after the day.

Plan to cycle between 60-100 children through 60-90-minute play sessions

Play should not be rushed. The reality of recess and lunch hours will hopefully not have to apply to your play day. Depending on the size of your school, we also recommend mixing age groups!

Assess the space you will use for this event

It’s helpful to designate an adventure play section in the playground – about a baseball diamond size space (excluding the outfield), preferably including sand/mud, and not too far from a water source. Supervision won’t be spread out too far and the rest of the playground will be available for other children during the day. Identify the perimeter of the play area and where loose parts will be placed (e.g. a cardboard tube placed near a sandpit will often become a tool for digging and exploration).

On the big day, consider how you will lay out the loose parts 

Avoid creating obvious play stations but spread out loose parts with hints as to how they might be used. Not all of the loose parts need be laid out on the site initially. Try introducing new parts as some things become too worn for play.

Supervising play on your big day

When given the freedom to play with loose parts, students will surprise you with new and creative ways to play! This can be a challenge to supervise, and requires that you balance the opportunity for students to direct their own play with the rules of the playground and risk of injury. Rather than over-policing play, focus on three simple rules: stay within the boundaries, everyone helps clean up, and have fun!

Tidy up

Be sure to include tidy up time in your schedule. Have students re-organize the play field for the next group. Make sure supervisors have transition time between groups to rest and regroup. At the end of the day, sort the waste from the stuff you need to return or store. Be extra nice to your caretakers as they will have the extra work of making sure that waste is properly recycled or disposed. Thank them!