Ardnashee School and College (ASC) in Derry/Londonderry is a participant in PlayBoard’s Taking Outdoor Play Seriously (TOPS) programme, funded by the Department of Education.

The staff and students of Ardnashee School and College are committed to developing outdoor play opportunities as part of the TOPS project, with PlayBoard and the current curriculum development work Learning Pathways.

TreeTops 2021 launched the development work involving 45 classes from primary and post primary and working collaboratively with students, parents, friends of ASC and the wider community (TOPS: Standard 5). ASC is encouraging and facilitating play for children and young people across the school. Learners are experiencing the great outdoors as part of the play curriculum in primary and post primary. The school has developed partnership links with the team from the Playtrail to establish workshops in forest schools and have developed a Farmers Market in post 16 where students manage a small business planting and selling fresh fruit, herbs, vegetables and plants. The school offers wood land walks, use of local parks and is committed to creating more fit for purpose outdoor learning spaces to improve the health and well-being of the children.

Within this development work, staff and students are reconnecting with the natural world and engaging with the World Around Us. In a time of climate change the first outdoor play project TreeTops has brought class teams across the school together to create arts and crafts and decorate the beautiful woodland trees encouraging exploration of the outdoor play spaces that the school aims to use and develop further this academic year. The school is reaching out to community groups to work in partnership and celebrate outdoor play. The partnership programmes with the Playtrail team were showcased during TreeTops where past pupils and the ASC school choir joined together to celebrate and sing beneath the craft work and the trees. With the theme of climate change, teams were tasked to think about the objectives of COP26 when making crafts and one of the Teaching Assistants, Ingrid, suggested a big ‘knit’. This involved linking further with community-based knitting groups and staff knitting clubs to create warm scarves for the trees. Ingrid and Kathleen sewed all the knitted items together to add colour and awareness of climate change to the trees – another fantastic element of the TreeTops project.

Play researchers Aoife and Kerri are keen to raise awareness about the importance of outdoor play for children and young people’s health, well-being and development, outlining that the right to play is enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. As we continue to battle Covid-19 and long periods of lockdown, ASC recognises the even greater importance of committing to the development of play and outdoor learning.

ASC launched their Taking Outdoor Play Seriously project just before Christmas and PlayBoard’s Shauneen McCusker was delighted to attend. By June 2022 all classrooms in the school will display a pledge to play certificate.

Watch the TreeTops video to see how the outdoor space was transformed into a beautiful, magical space!