Loose Parts Playgrounds

In Term 2, six classed explored the question “What is a successful loose parts playground?”. A green shipping container had appeared in the playground and students were curious about why it had arrived.

green shipping container in playground

Each class watch a video called “Inside NYC’s Riskiest Playground Where Parents Aren’t Allowed Inside” to provoke their thinking about loose parts playgrounds.

page of see, think and wonder sharing

After watching they where challenged to list what they could see by close observation, state what they thought using evidence from their close observations and then create some questions to guide our research in answering the BIG question.

List of Learning Assets in toolkit

Our classes were adding to their learning toolkit during the term by discussing and developing their learning assets. There are 5 learning assets that our classes focus attention on throughout each learning day. In particular during our loose parts exploration we were being researchers. Kath Murdoch explains researchers as being curious, courageous and resourceful. Researchers create thick questions. They gather information from a variety of sources and think critically about it. They are also careful to acknowledge the sources of their information.

Title from book Thick or Thin Questions

Each class worked on creating some questions that would allow us to explore the idea of a loose parts playground and what would be needed to make it successful. We soon extended our original question to another question as we were all curious to find out what the benefits of a loose parts playground might be.

Classes watched videos, read snippets from web articles and PDF documents, looked closely at photographs and collated data about what would be most useful in a loose parts play area. They were challenged to think about risk and safety.

We used Book Creator as a place to share our thoughts. This gave each class the opportunity to collaborate online and practice being sensible digital citizens especially when 24 students were all working on the same book at the same time. Our character strengths of honesty, teamwork, curiousity, creativity, love of learning, perseverance and perspective help us online as well.

Loose Parts research book cover

After presenting our research in Book Creator we then had a chance to spend time in exploring the contents of our shipping container as a class and also with our buddy class. We found cardboard boxes, rope, foam shapes, pvc pipes and milk crates all very useful. Some of us created musical instruments, others worked together to make zip lines and there were cars, boats, shops and restaurants.

small loose parts being put together into a structure

Some classes also had the opportunity to explore scaled down loose parts play. Straws became pipes, string became rope, fabric squares became tarps and there where sticks of different shapes and sizes. One of the big restrictions was that all joining of items needed to be non-permanent so that all objects could be re-used. The instruction was “Create something with loose parts…..”

Our loose parts play area is now open at every recess lunch for all of our school to explore and invent new ideas each day.

What do you think makes a loose parts play area successful? Which items would you collect to add to our shipping container? Please leave a comment sharing your thoughts.

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