This isn’t an auditing tool for the faint of heart.


Wild Ideas for Learning Outdoors was inspired by a TFeL pilot ‘Student Voice Audit’ and Juliet Robertson’s ‘Primary School Outdoor Audit’. The tool challenges learning communities to ask “where to next?” The card set features six categories, each with four provocations:


  • Time in Nature
  • Student Voice and Agency
  • Contributing to the Community
  • Caring for the Environment
  • Managing Risk and Challenge
  • Opportunities for Nature Play


What role do children play in determining how and where they learn and play?


Children in Australia spend around 12,000 hours at school. Primary school kids will spend over 1200 hours in their play spaces, so it’s vital that these environments provide resistance in the form of challenges and real, not imagined, risks. Learning and play spaces must be diverse surroundings that encourage all areas of a child’s development – social, cognitive, physical, and emotional.


Never before has creating a sense of belonging and connection to place and nature been more important. This auditing tool is intended to drive conversation between children and adults about imagining new ways to improve learning environments. It should challenge educators to reflect upon how their pedagogy supports the health and wellbeing of all learners by creating more time and space for outdoor learning.

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Many of us are familiar with the extensive research, presented to us by academics and educators
from across the globe, confirming the importance of nature play for children’s emotional, social and
cognitive development and overall wellbeing. In this case study from Kilkenny Primary School, we hear
from arguably the most invested researchers and practitioners – children themselves.

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Elizabeth Grove Primary School is a Category 1 school and has recently embarked on extending its grounds to incorporate a natural play space rich in sensory and risky play opportunities. The school’s journey is just beginning and this article provides an insight into the site’s whole-school approach to nature play.

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This article explores collaborative Nature Play Planning at St Catherine’s. Despite an enviable setting in the Adelaide Hills, St Catherine’s School embarked on an ambitious nature play space enhancement program that has empowered the whole school community.

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Guidelines for Creating a Meaningful Natural Play Space: Nature play spaces are areas designed for children to play in free, open-ended ways. They should offer rich and diverse experiences that enable children to guide and master their own play experiences, play how they want to play, test their cognitive and physical capabilities, stimulate their senses, provide social interactions and independent play, and teach them about living things and how to care for them.




Go Further:


Check out our two-page Natural Playspace Principles. This document is an excellent starting point for students or school communities to begin the process of discussion around what spaces are present, missing, or in need of attention.



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When is a play space not just a play space?


When it is a teacher.


In this expert opinion piece, Paul Johnson challenges us to see our play spaces not just as environments but as educators that guide, shape and stimulate in their own right.



Go Further:




What Spirit Shall it Have? Explore how the intentionality of an environment’s design impacts learning and pedagogy. Consider the aggregation of marginal gains, how small, interconnected projects can activate dead spaces and help build and sustain learning communities.


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Where to Start and how to Make the Most of a Natural Play Space: Nature Play SA General Manager Jason Tyndall provides some guidance on defining and designing a natural play space with a series of ideas that he regularly presents on, has been involved with, or has observed in other settings.


In this overview he stresses the need for a site to involve their whole community so that the space meaningfully reflects the thoughts and expressions of children.




Go Further:

The team at Green Adelaide have created a Coastal Gardens and Adelaide Gardens planting guide so you can research and plan you own native garden space.




What Are The Seven Cs?

“Seven Cs is an informational guide for early childhood educators, designers, administrators, and parents.1 The goal of Seven Cs is to
help people design outdoor play spaces that support the development of young children

and integrate the unique qualities of playing outdoors. The guide should be used in concert with existing codes, safety regulations, and design guidelines.”


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Nature Play Every Day, Every Child: How Listening to Children can Influence Authentic Outdoor Learning Experiences: With a whole-school approach in mind and an active student voice, Snowtown Primary School principal Trish Boschetti and upper primary teacher Daina McCormack share their school’s nature play journey and explain how the site has evolved into a hub for outdoor learning.


2019 saw collaborative learning across sites to evolve a nature play space.  A collaboration with Bute Primary School for Junk-Yard play sessions allowed students, teachers and school community members to collaborate with other nature play focused schools and inspire an evolving nature play space.



Go Further:


Check out this two-page Natural Playspaces: Getting Started guide which touches on consultation, design, and documenting your journey.


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Learning Outdoors Benefits and Risks: Outdoor learning environments provide opportunity for students to engage in open-ended, diverse and meaningful learning experiences that are connected to nature, while also being connected to curriculum.


Outdoor learning spaces are also a feature of Australian learning environments. They offer a vast array of possibilities not available indoors.


Play spaces in natural environments include plants, trees, edible gardens, sand, rocks, mud, water and other elements from nature. These spaces invite open-ended interactions, spontaneity, risk-taking, exploration, discovery and connection with nature.


They foster an appreciation of the natural environment, develop environmental awareness and provide a platform for ongoing environmental education.






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Grand Designs: Effective Planning of Natural Play Spaces: As with many things in life, effective planning is the key to success of natural play spaces. In this interview, experienced landscape architect and play space designer Pete Semple shares his knowledge and experience on how to achieve the best learning and developmental outcomes, as well as as recreational fun, and wonder, through thoughtful planning and design.



Pre-Mortem — How to Avoid Project Catastrophe:


A Pre-Mortem is a strategic planning activity that imagines a project has failed. This type of thinking helps to identify and mitigate risks early on in the planning phase. Tom Barrett has created these free Pre-Mortem worksheets which are perfect for students or teams to assess the challenges to a project and adapt their plans.




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