Dunedin girl Lizzy Park (7) climbs to the top of the whale tail at Marlow Park. A new school of thought at some schools in the city is allowing more scope for children to be adventurous, rather than avoiding risks. Photo by Dan Hutchinson
Four Dunedin schools have thrown away the rule book and given
their pupils more freedom on the playing field, leading to
more skinned knees but more active and focused pupils.
Green Island School and Silverstream School, in Mosgiel, were
two of the schools to take part in a University of Otago
study into how relaxing playground rules would affect
The two-year, multidisciplinary ''Play Study'' finished last
year but both schools have kept the hands-off approach and
allow pupils more freedom during lunch and breaks.
Silverstream School principal Elizabeth Cleverly said the
study had shifted the way her school thought about play.
Instead of complex playground equipment, pupils now climbed
trees or made their own fun with objects like concrete
tunnels and old tyres. Pupils were more active than before,
There were possibly more skinned knees now and junior pupils
were coming in from breaks with mud on their uniform but that
was part of learning, Miss Cleverly said.
Green Island School principal Steve Hayward said one of the
most popular changes the school made was to allow pupils
outside when it rained. The school bought 50 pairs of
gumboots and 50 raincoats and pupils were encouraged to bring
wet-weather gear from home.
''When it rains, these kids can still get outside and jump in
puddles and splash each other and burn off all that excess
energy,'' Mr Hayward said.
Pupils were allowed to climb trees up to a certain height,
which had led them to create a game where they tried to climb
from tree to tree without touching the ground, he said.
The results of the Play Study have not yet been published but
both principals said while it was hard to say for certain if
more activity in the playground led to more attention in the
classroom, so far it seemed to have worked.
Kylie Marriner, a Dunedin mother of a 6-year-old, said it was
''built-in'' for a mother to want to protect her child but
she had to let her son explore.
''Half the time I just have to look away because I would wrap
him up in cotton wool otherwise. You can't be sitting there
growling at them all the time.''
Dunedin mother Stephanie Blair said her children generally
knew what they could and could not do and it would be good if
rules were more relaxed at schools.
Play Study co-ordinator Victoria Farmer, a senior research
technician at the University of Otago, said researchers had
been surprised by the enthusiasm for the project.
''It just shows what people have been saying for a long time
about being too careful with children and the benefits of
letting them go off and learn for themselves.''
The two other schools that took part declined to comment,
citing privacy concerns.
- by Tim Miller