Australian Primary School Playgrounds: Children's Use of Playspaces and Equipment
Research is particularly scarce on the changes which are occurring in primary school playgrounds in Australia. This recent doctoral study looked at three primary school playgrounds and reported on the types of play children engage in at primary school. At the heart of this study was the researcher’s belief that the right to play in the primary school playground is a fundamental right of all children attending a primary school, as well as a vital opportunity for learning life skills.
This research has grown from a concern that Australian primary school playgrounds may be following the path of many other first world countries, becoming less and less child friendly and increasingly restricting children’s play opportunities as described by Armitage (2001), Evans (2003), Neto (2005), and many others. This study was prompted by the researcher’s desire to better understand the types of play children were engaging in, in the playgrounds of three Melbourne primary schools, built during different periods, in different locations and in different socio-economic contexts.
Each playground was viewed from the perspectives of the principal, teachers and children and, using a schedule of play categories developed in a pilot study, playground observations were conducted. This resulted in a clear picture of the types of play children were engaging in, how they were using playspaces and equipment, how teachers were supervising the playground and how they were interacting with the children during playground supervision.
This paper specifically explores children’s use of playspaces and equipment with regard to the types of play they are engaging in, the age group and gender of players. Numerous examples of children’s unexpected and innovative use of playspaces and equipment were observed and recorded. An example from each of the schools in this study will be used to illustrate children’s innovative use of playspaces and equipment.
Keywords: Playgrounds, Outdoor Playspace Design, Childrens Play and Learning
Dr. Barbara Chancellor
Lecturer, Design and Social Context Portfolio, RMIT University