A playful visit!

ARTPAD UK Visit written by Karen Benjamin

In November the partners from the European project ARTPAD visited the University of Gloucestershire as part of the yearlong study visits to see examples of good practice in a arrange of settings using drama approaches to learning and also those supporting play. The project is focused on researching how these approaches may support the development of resilience in children and young people.

On Day 1 the group visited a primary school in Stroud where the Year 5 teacher was using drama to engage children in learning about a specific aspect of history.  The children had already created an imaginary character with who they could relate to as she was of their age and had similar characteristics. By placing the students in an imaginary situation the teacher was able to engage them with the emotional context of the Fall of Pompeii.  We observed a very sensitive engagement by the teacher with her class who after their involvement in the task responded creatively through their language and similes, demonstrating a high level of involvement and understanding of the historical event.

Later that day Play Gloucestershire presented their work that targeted particular groups of children through their Play Nurture project where they provide targeted play sessions for children who need time and space to play away from their environment and with supportive adults.

Then Michael Follet presented on his work with OPAL (Outdoor Play & Learning) where school’s invest in a play audit that ensures school environments are improved to support children’s access to spaces for playing, and are supported by a change in school ethos and approach to playtimes.

On Day 2 a whole day was spent in Bristol where the group visited Bristol Children’s Scrapstore and a Scrapstore Playpod in a local Primary School.  Scrapstore Playpods introduce scrap materials as loose parts into the playground encouraging a range of play opportunities that support creative, risky and co-operative play and improve children’s overall experience of their school day. Evidence form the research  on the  initial pilot projects clearly showed how improving playtimes through resources and staff training impacted on the whole school and on children’s engagement with learning in the afternoon.

Alice from ‘Playing Out’ visited during lunch to talk about how the introduction of street closures supporting children’s play on their doorsteps had benefitted communities with research being undertaken through the  University of Bristol on the impact of the project.

After our European partners shopped in the Warehouse at Scrapstore we all travelled to Felix Road Adventure Playground where the Senior Playworker Eddie Nuttall showed the group around and we were fed delicious food from their kitchen whilst we sat around the fire pit and evaluated our day.

It was hoped that a great deal of good play projects were seen by partners as the UK is very proud of  playwork as an approach to supporting children’s play and this was something we wanted very much to share with our European partners.