Outdoor play pop-up event lets students self-direct their playtime

St. Anthony Catholic Elementary School in Thornhill hosted a three-day Outdoor Eco-Play event for its students before the school year ended. The pop-up event, which was brought to the school by Earth Day Canada, gave students the opportunities to explore self-directed play with donated building materials and recycled items, such as ropes, tires, cardboard boxes, old sheets, tubing, and wood.

Students used their creativity to build and repurpose the materials in whatever way they could imagine. The pop-up event was held on the school's field and each of the school's classes had a chance to explore the materials. The types of play differed with different groups of students, and different ages. Some students engaged in engineering and building activities, while others made costumes or engaged in very athletic forms of play. All students had smiles on their faces and never appeared bored.

This Outdoor Eco-Play event was the first one held in the York Catholic District School Board through Earth Day Canada. Linda Maccarato, Manager for the charitable organization said that, "these play programs are very popular in the UK and in Europe, where there is a movement to get children outdoors and allow them to create their own open-ended play in natural settings. Most of the items we get are donated from hardware stores, auto shops or second hand stores, and the children just love them."

"The self-directed play with recycled materials gives children a chance to explore, invent and use their imagination in open spaces," said Priya Kottackal, FDK Teacher at St. Anthony. "In class we talk about nature and the environment; this activity allowed students to put the concepts behind reusing and recycling into action. Somebody's garbage or junk can be so interesting to somebody else. The best thing is, all of the students are being active and there is nobody sitting out."