OPAL – Outdoor Play & Learning
What is OPAL?
Research has shown that children spend 20% of their time in school playing. To ensure that this time and our fantastic school grounds are used to their full potential our school has adopted an OPAL (Outdoor Play and Learning) philosophy that allows the children freedom to explore play in their own imaginative ways, often using found and gathered resources in the natural outdoor environment.
An OPAL approach promotes a more inclusive play environment in which all children can feel comfortable to express themselves. Our OPAL journey began in May 2021 and since this time, we have quickly transformed our outdoor environment. Our children love the new outdoor opportunities that OPAL offers with so much more for them to do, no matter the weather! From playing with tyres and digging in the mud pit, to enjoying imaginative play in the small world area or cooking up a storm in the mud kitchen, OPAL offers an exciting alternative to the standard playground activities.
Through this approach to play children are not only more active at lunch or break times, but they are also having the opportunity to further develop life skills such as cooperation, team work and problem solving. They are becoming motivated and enthusiastic builders, engineers, explorers and designers.
What our children think?
Opal play has good things like mud kitchens. Yr1
The things I like the best are the scooters and the kitchen, it's much better now! Yr1
We can go into different yards and we can build and climb in loose parts. Yr2
Opal play gets you active, you can run and play on different yards. Yr4
It's a good way to express your creativity and test it! Yr4
I like that there's different zones and not everything is squished together, if it is a bit noisy or busy in one zone you can just go to another. Yr3
I love the new pallet houses we can play so many games in them. Yr3
What our community thinks-
Take a look at some of the things our community had to say about OPAL at our school…
Opal has had a real positive impact on the behaviour of children and some children who used to struggle with playtimes are now really engaged and enjoy playtime again. Teachers don't spend the first 5-10 mins after playtime sorting out issues. Mrs Clougher- Head Teacher
Opal Play has transformed our playtimes, it is so lovely to see children really playing, being creative and imaginative and having the freedom and resources to choose their own play. Mrs Kidd-Scannell-Deputy Head
Lunchtimes are now much more fun and adventurous for the children. They are so much happier. Miss Willans- Opal Play worker.
The first aid has gone right down even though the children are now taking more risks. Mrs Hardy-First aider
OPAL Play in action....
Digging area & pallet houses
New and improved digging area and bark area.
‘The Golden Welly’
To celebrate the children and their play we are going to be introducing 'The Golden Welly Award'. Children can achieve this award for using their initiative during play, outstanding behaviour, being a kind friend or showing good sportsmanship. Our Opal playworkers at lunchtime will be nominating children each week. All nominees will be celebrated in our weekly Opal assembly and receive a special bookmark and sticker. 2 lucky nominees will then be chosen to receive 'The Golden Welly' for their class. They will get to keep the trophy in class for the week and receive a certificate to be displayed in school and one to bring home to show off their amazing achievement!
We are very excited that our newly appointed Opal Cadets are joining the Opal Team. Each class has 1 child that has been chosen as a representative. The cadets will meet regularly with the staff team to discuss how Opal is going, what might need changing or tweaking and what we would like to do next on our continuing journey.
The Opal cadets have a number of important jobs to do and can't wait to get started. Watch this space to see what they get up to...
New Forest Area open
This week we opened our new forest area with the help of our Opal Cadets.
They created a super safety video which we all watched in our Opal assembly so we know how to play safely.
The children are having so much fun playing and exploring in our new area.
New sand pit
After months of guessing what our new area was going to be all the children were very excited to discover that we now have a brand new sand pit. The children were desperate to be able to play in there and it is proving to be very popular.
Name our new boat competition
We were very lucky that one of our amazing parents found us a boat but, unfortunately it was a bit of a wreck and in no state for us to play in. However, it has been transformed after lots of hard work and we are so pleased with the end result.
We decided to launch a name the boat competition. We were overwhelmed with the responses and all the super names suggestions... Sparkle blue, The Big Blue Boat, Go with the flow, Titanic (this was a very popular choice!)
The only way to decide was to pick a name out of the hat and the winning name was...
'The Blue Swagger'
Opal Grown Ups Stay & Play
This week we were very excited that our grown ups were coming into school to experience the fun of Opal play. Even though it was a bit wet and cold it didn't stop the children showing all the exciting areas they play in at playtimes. The driveway was very busy with parents and children on scooters, wheel chairs and skate boards. There were also some amazing constructions being built on the loose parts yard and it was great to see grown ups and children problem solving and working together as a team which are 2 very important parts of Opal Play.
More pictures to follow...
Eyes down it's Opal Bingo time
This week we have introduced our 1st Opal Bingo board game.
Each class has been given a bingo board with lots of items to collect. When a class collects a line of ‘loose parts’ on their board and calls bingo, they will get 5 minutes extra Opal playtime.
If a class collects all the ‘loose parts’, they will win a bonus 30 minutes extra playtime!
If you have any of these items at home that you would like to donate, please bring them into school and pass them to the class teacher. Any enquires regarding items or any general questions about donating, please contact the school office via email who will pass it on to Mrs Kidd-Scannell.
Autumn fun and games
Tour de Grange
We were very excited to introduce bikes to our wheelie zone. We have removed all the pedals to make them into balance bikes so that they can be used by everyone. We are really enjoying the new addition to the drive way. Can you spot any other new equipment added to the yard?
We were very excited today when we looked out of the window and saw it was snowing. Using lots of the equipment that we collected from the Opal bingo boards the children had so much fun. It was lovely to see them using the paint rollers and brushes to paint pictures in the snow and collecting snow from the roof tops of the pallet houses using spoons, bowls and anything else they could find!
New Year, new term updates;
With the start of a new term, we are in the process of introducing a few new areas to Opal for the children to play and explore. We are developing a dinosaur area, a bird hide and made enhancements to the water area and mud kitchen.
We have also introduced IPAL (Indoor Play and Learning) where children can choose to come inside to the Sunshine Room where they can draw, colour, make crafts or into our reading club where they can get cosy and enjoy a good book.
Opal Gym area-
We are very fortunate that we have been donated 2 exercise bikes which we have gone out in the main yard. As with all new equipment we introduce into Opal we had our Key Stage assemblies and discussed how we could use the bikes and what the ‘Risk benefits’ would be. The children had great fun trying out the new bikes, with the trampolines, trim trail and now the exercise bikes we have our own little gym area developing.
Development of the Forest Area
We have been working developing our forest area. We have introduced 2 minibeast hotel walls, a cooking area, music wall and added some new equipment to play with and explore. There is still lots we would like to do! The children always have lots of ideas on how their play areas can be made even better.
Forest school yard
This week the Opal Team got very wet and muddy setting up our very own mud café. The children enjoyed making mud cakes and having some interesting looking cups of tea!
We wanted to encourage the birds into our yard so that we can spot them from our bird hide. So, we decided we could make our own bird feeders using cheerio’s, pipe cleaners and then hang them on the trees.