Celebrate at assemblies!
School assemblies are an effective framework for promoting outdoor play and recognizing the champions of play among classes, students and staff! If your school meets periodically, consider including a celebration of the various activities that take place throughout the year (see our Take Action list). Take the opportunity to share your new game rules or policies.
At special events, invite experts to introduce challenging lectures to students that will make them think of new ideas. Many community environmental organizations are willing to donate their time to support student learning. Consult the people in your school community. Expressions of interest may surprise you!
Reducing the consumption of single-use bottles
Start a campaign of reusable water bottles! Encouraging all students to bring their reusable bottle is still an excellent environmental education tool. Plastic water bottles are often found in landfills, where they pollute the oceans or our neighborhoods! Plastic waste has serious impacts on almost all wildlife ... and humans!
Did you know that it takes more energy to produce, fill, send and recycle plastic water bottles than to supply your tap with drinking water? Transportation requires the combustion of fossil fuels (such as coal and oil) and releases CO2 into the air, contributing to climate change. Begin a discussion on climate change and invite students to think about what they can do.
In the classroom
If playing with loose parts is already a practice in your schoolyard, discuss it in class. Integrating the themes of play and the environment into teaching time has positive and lasting effects. We encourage teachers and supervisors to explore ways to promote the game instead of ending it (say YES more often!).
In our OPAL program, we suggest a dialogue in the form of "celebrate, inform, negotiate". Celebrate all the ways of playing that appeal to students. Inform them of potentially risky activities and ask them how they could be improved. Negotiate the playing conditions and the division of responsibilities in the play area. Staff and students will be able to remember three useful questions to ask themselves: Is this activity fun? Is it inclusive? Is it safe enough?
Environmental lessons are another good way to stimulate research and critical thinking and to generate new ideas for green projects. EcoKids offers a number of free learning activities that are easy to integrate at all grade levels and in all areas of the curriculum.
Students can support green initiatives in the classroom by ensuring that lights, computers and interactive whiteboards are closed when no one is using them. Promoting a waste-free lunch program is one way to reduce the school's overall waste output.
The loose parts shed
Has your school decided to invest in a collection of loose parts? If so, you will need a place to store them. It will ideally be a shed or container located outside, near a playground. Provide sturdy bins on wheels to transport parts and storage shelves accessible to children. You could also build higher shelves where you can keep parts or let them rest for a while. It is important to entrust the management and maintenance of your shed to the club as well as to the participating staff.
Outdoor Play and Learning with loose parts
This is one of the main goals of your club: taking students out to encourage interactive, rewarding and meaningful learning experiences. Invite students to explore the natural elements of their schoolyard (and beyond!), through self-directed free play. Our Take Action list will give you great ideas!
All you need is a simple set of loose parts and play time to encourage creativity, strengthen collaboration and promote solidarity.
Effective recycling for play
To teach the 3 Rs to students, conduct a waste audit, then invite students to formulate a waste reduction plan at school. Determine which objects could be supra-recycled for outdoor play: large boxes, reusable plastic containers, cardboard tubes ... Add them to your loose parts collection! Educate the school community about waste reduction, effective ways to recycle and reuse items for play, through posters, ads or even contests! Some exceptional schools have set up unique participation programs, such as handing out the "Golden Garbage Can" to the class that produces the least waste!
Ask your caretaker, janitor or maintenance team leader for help with your environmental protection and gaming initiatives. These people will be able to offer valuable advice and tips to help you achieve your goals and projects, especially when it comes to water, energy, waste and the greening of the schoolyard.
Active transportation on the way to school
Consider organizing an active transportation campaign to educate and engage the school community in environmental efforts! Physical activity, before and after school, helps students excel and focus as part of their structured classroom activities. On your way to school, replace the car or bus with active transportation: cycling, skateboarding, rollerblading, scooters, walking, romping, jogging.
Here are some ideas that will lead your school community to adopt active modes of transportation:
Challenge members of your school community to walk to school every Wednesday. Form groups of students who will walk together or send information to parents to mobilize them. Make it a fun experience: Have students count how many Wednesdays they walk to school. Those who walked most often could win a reward or a prize like the Golden Sneaker (an old painted sneaker in gold)!
The Walking Bus
In this carpool on foot, an adult leads the walk and picks up students along the road like a bus! This activity encourages students to get active together and gives older students the opportunity to accompany younger students, which promotes mentorship and leadership.
Active Transportation Flash Campaign
Organize an active transportation blitz for a week or a month! Teach students the concept of their carbon footprint and the effects of our actions on that footprint. Challenge them to reduce their carbon footprint as much as possible! Using a thermometer chart, illustrate the school's carbon footprint before and after the blitz.
Encourage cycling on your way to school with a hands-on bicycle conference to teach parents, teachers and students how to ride a bike safely! A representative from a local store may be willing to come and give advice on setting up a bike. Be sure to communicate the positive effects of these improvements to the school community.
Note: Not everyone has the opportunity to practice active transportation. Encourage other means of sustainable and accessible transportation, but keep in mind and respect the fact that even these options are not feasible for everyone.
Start a club!
Recruit members! Prepare posters to invite students and school staff to attend a presentation meeting. Once the club is formed, divide the tasks, set the meeting schedule, and formulate a vision statement that defines your club's role in the school. You could have one representative per grade level and collaborate with other clubs and teams in the school.
Designate a secretary for each meeting to keep track of discussions, decisions and assignments.
Safe school zones and ecological commuting
You could start a school traffic management campaign! Moments before and after school are conducive to engaging with parents to educate them about traffic management, the consequences of idling vehicle engines and the benefits of active transportation.
Active transportation (walking, cycling, etc.) promotes a healthy and welcoming environment for children, and promotes physical activity, which keeps young people healthy. It also reduces the number of cars circulating around the school and thus alleviates traffic problems that affect children. Carpooling and bus transportation are excellent green choices for those who may be unable to afford active transportation.
Morning announcements are a great way to share information, news items and news about campaigns and activities related to outdoor play and the environment to the school community. Once a week, as part of these announcements, invite new students and staff to participate in the club's efforts and activities.
Administrative staff can support ecological measures and outdoor activities by introducing a paperless attendance system, publishing school information in the form of newsletters, posting activities on the school's website, and helping to manage the collection of loose parts.
The school's management staff play an important role in play and environmental initiatives. They can support your club by attending meetings and setting up a rewards program or other incentives. A director has even innovated by offering her students an extension of recess as a reward!
To support teaching staff, the administration can include play and environmental news on the agenda of staff meetings and offer professional training days.
In the staff room
Inform all school staff of the activities of your Eco-Friendly Outdoor Play Club and encourage your colleagues to put their expertise and talent to work for your projects. Talk about your challenges and successes to encourage collaboration and feedback from your colleagues. You can also call the staff for the collection of