We would be grateful for donations of the following to build up our stock of loose parts and play equipment for our Outdoor Play and Learning:
- large cardboard boxes
- unwanted suitcases
- unwanted pushchairs
- roller skates & scooters
- bicycle or skateboarding helmets
- go-kart tyres
- large cardboard tubes
- off-cuts of plastic guttering
- small world toys such as dinosaurs, animals and vehicles
Please bring to the main office gate and someone will come out to collect.
NB: donations will be quarantined before children are allowed to access them.
What is OPAL?
OPAL stands for Outdoor Play and Learning. OPAL is a community interest company dedicated to providing services to schools and organisations to improve the quality of play opportunities for all children.
Benyon Primary School have enlisted the support of OPAL to help us to create better playtimes for all. Some of the benefits include:
Faster Core Skills Development:
Children at OPAL schools rapidly develop creativity, imagination, cooperation, resilience, social skills, emotional regulation, stamina, confidence and readiness to learn on returning to the classroom.
OPAL's approach makes play better for every child, every day...no exceptions!
Happiness and Wellbeing:
Play is a human need and a human right. Children and staff at OPAL's schools report feeling less stressed and happier, and more excited about school.
The beginning of our journey...
In October, the children were provided with access to a variety of loose parts. Loose parts are materials that can be easily moved, combined and incorporated into children's free play. Here are some to the amazing things they have been doing during their playtimes:
The children have continued to enjoy playing with loose parts. In addition, we were very excited to receive our very own sailing boat, which was generously donated by Havering Sailing Club. The children have had a 'whale of a time' sailing this across the school field!
As the weather has begun to get very wet and muddy, we have asked children to bring in a pair of wellies or outdoor shoes to wear when playing on the field. We were also lucky enough to receive a £500 grant from the Ernest Cook Trust and a £50 donation from Tesco Extra at Lakeside, which purchased 70 pairs of wellies for the children to use.
We introduced further loose parts, including wooden pallets, flexible ducting pipe, old chairs and more tyres - you can never have enough tyres! The children have taken part in virtual fortnightly assemblies, where they have discussed the risks and benefits of each of the loose parts. They have come up with some very creative ways of using these resources in their play and have been extremely sensible in identifying how to keep themselves and their friends safe.
In December the rain continued, this, along with the restrictions imposed on us due to the global pandemic, resulted in some very muddy conditions, as the field had to be used continuously throughout the wet weather. This didn't prevent the children from having an amazing time and the parents were extremely understanding.
In January, February and March...
Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the majority of children had to remain at home, enforcing us to pause our OPAL project for the whole of January and February.
In March, the children returned and picked up where they left off. They had remembered all the safety aspects that had been discussed and they had a renewed energy for playing with their friends. The project has helped to promote happiness and wellbeing and has supported the children in developing their collaboration, communication, perseverance and social skills - just what they needed after spending so long in lockdown.
During the Easter Holiday, staff and volunteers gave up their free time to help construct a huge sand-pit for the children to play in. This consisted of
- 24 railway sleepers, each at 2.4m long
- 63 decking boards, each at 4.8m long
- 50m of weed control membrane
- 24 pallets
- 20,000kg of play sand (that’s 20 metric tonnes!)
The children have loved every minute they have had in the sand-pit so far, with some great collaboration, problem solving and team-work taking place. There have been roadways, tunnels and bridges, as well as children attempting to build famous London buildings such as the Shard and the Gherkin.
We looked at defining our digging area, as it was getting rather large! Digging is definitely something the children enjoy doing! We introduced trowels and spades too.
We opened our 'Jurassic Park' area, where children can use bricks, blocks, small world animals (including dinosaurs) and diggers. This again has proved to be popular with children of all ages.
Earlier on in the year, the children planted some hedge row plants. We moved the large log seats to these areas, hoping that as the hedge rows grow, two social spaces will be created. The children already enjoy sitting in these seating areas with their friends and they also spend time carefully moving the log seats in search of minibeasts!
The end of May, saw the beginning of fairer weather and the introduction of our OPAL after school club. This was initially for the children in years 5 & 6, but was so popular that we added an additional club for the children in years 3 & 4. The children decided that the first session needed to be a den/fort building competition, this resulted in the children displaying some great problem solving and perseverance skills in order to construct their designs.
Only 7 months into our OPAL journey and we have seen a huge change in the way playtimes look at Benyon Primary. We see children collaborating and problem solving every single day. We see children participating in play with a wider selection of peers and we see children managing their own risks and supporting each other to have fun and stay safe. Above all, we have seen children making sense of the world around them, with Covid testing centres and vaccination centres being created during their play and McDonalds 'drive-thru' restaurants featured too. We see them bring their learning outside from the classroom, constructing famous landmarks and World War II bunkers. We see children 'satisfied' after their play and ready to focus and learn when they return to their classrooms.