Out to Play is taking over! Looking back at my time at Croftfoot Primary

Written by Saffron Gillies.

In spring 2022 I worked with staff and pupils in P2, P3 and P4 at Croftfoot Primary School, exploring their expansive and exciting playground, and connecting to the nature around us. 

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to work with Fiona Bryant, a member of staff who had engaged with the project previously at St Albert’s Primary, with Drama Artist Sophie. Fiona has become a passionate supporter of Eco Drama’s work, and has been running Out to Play sessions with lots of pupils at Croftfoot. When I came along to begin the residency, children from P2 and P3 had already joined Fiona on some adventures. It was such a treat for me to see what they’d been getting up to, and to deliver a residency that complemented Fiona’s wonderful work.

One of our main aims with the Out to Play project is to inspire teachers and practitioners to continue to take the children they work with outside, and to make the work their own. So it was lovely to see Fiona in action, and to have her join us for some of our sessions too.

With both of us there, sometimes working with different groups in the playground simultaneously, it really felt like Out to Play was taking over!

Inspired by Fiona’s championing of the project, I thought I would detail here some of the reasons why I LOVE arts-based outdoor learning and storytelling, and some associated outcomes from the Out to Play project.

Exploring and playing outside can promote active lifestyles

Getting outdoors more often is a great way to promote active lifestyles with your pupils – we can have lots of fun playing and exercising outdoors, getting lots of fresh air, and learning in the process. Outdoor learning can support many CfE Health and Wellbeing outcomes, plus being outdoors can be incredibly beneficial for our physical and our mental health and wellbeing. Particularly as we move forward post-Covid, when so many of us were stuck inside, outdoor learning can be a great tool for promoting positive mental health and healthy lifestyles in our learners. At Croftfoot we experimented with lots of different ways of moving through the space, becoming animals and trees – even creating our own physicalised food chains. And of course, we played lots of active drama games, which are a fantastic way to get your class moving and having fun while being creative.

The playground can be full of possibilities

The playground provides endless scope for imagination and play, whether your space is fully concrete or a nature reserve in its own right! Being outside can really let the imagination free – in the outdoor space you can journey across the world with your class. This can contribute to our understanding of different climate zones, promote global citizenship and allow children to visit landscapes and places that they may not otherwise be able to explore. You might not be able to take your class to the rainforest – but you could imagine one outside and go exploring through it. Bonus points if done in the rain! 

Stories let us walk in someone else’s shoes

Humans have shared stories for thousands of years. Sharing traditional stories is a fantastic way to excite your learners, and to create a special experience that is unique to them – after all a storyteller rarely tells their story the same way twice! My favourite thing about stories is that they can help us step into someone else’s shoes. Why do the Fireflies flash and flicker? How does a tree feel if we take too much from it, or cut it down? Should the King go to the moon? Interacting with a topic through story can allow children to look at issues from different perspectives, encouraging empathy and respect for others. At Croftfoot we shared stories from around the world, and pupils made and shared their own. One of my favourite pupil-made stories was “Why the Highland Cow is So Hairy” – according to the children it’s because they hide from the hairdresser!

Nurturing a love for the outdoors can be a step towards sustainable futures

At the heart of this project, for me, is a sincere wish to spark a love of the outdoors in the children (and adults) who participate. At Eco Drama we hope that through the Out to Play project we can nurture the innate care for nature that we believe all children are born with, and inspire participants to treat their world with care and respect throughout their lives. 

Weather in chalk

Getting creative together can build friendships and communication skills

Working together while engaging in drama is a brilliant way to develop problem solving, communication and team working skills. Plus it’s a great way to allow children’s creativity to flourish! But, one of my favourite things about working together to create and engage in drama is that it can allow children to make new connections in their class. When it comes to group tasks, I often ask pupils to choose a partner and then, with their partner, to pair up with another pair of pupils who they wouldn’t usually work with. Some P4 pupils at Croftfoot were asked by their teacher to reflect on their experiences at the end of the residency – and I was so pleased to hear feedback from a pupil that they felt they’d made better friends with other pupils in their class through the process. 

Thank you!

I’d like to finish by giving a huge thanks to all of the pupils and staff at Croftfoot who took part in our Out to Play residency, I’m so grateful to have worked with them all! Thanks also to Fiona Bryant for her passionate support, and to the school’s wider staff team.