28 September 2016
Lund, Sweden, 12th September 2016. Over 200 delegates from 16 nations and 6 continents gathered in the city hall to attend the International School Grounds Alliance (ISGA) 'Green Grounds for Health and Learning' conference.
This was the fifth conference run by members of the ISGA and it brought together delegates from as far afield as Chile, Australia, Japan and Canada. The ISGA is a global network of organisations and professionals working to enrich children's learning and play by improving the way school grounds are designed and used. We do this by drawing upon the knowledge and skills of our members and sharing good practice and ideas through our website, our regular conferences, International School Grounds Month and through collaborative projects.
This year's conference was a mixture of keynote speakers, practical workshops, presentations and site visits. Speakers from Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Indonesia and the UK focused on the importance of school grounds and of risk for child development. We learned how in Indonesia children learn to problem solve through practical outdoor challenges then heard how inner motivation is key to children's learning before our own Sue Humphries spoke on the importance of developing personal stories through our experiences at school.
As part of the conference both indoor and outdoor workshop leaders demonstrated to delegates ways of working in school grounds. Whether creating opportunities for risky play for very young children, learning how art can help children connect with the natural world or learning about how to engage secondary pupils in outdoor learning each workshop inspired and challenged.
The sun shone throughout the conference which made the site visits to pre-schools, schools, youth centres, universities and public play spaces particularly special. We saw children enjoying the outdoors; they were working with a farmer to grow their own crops, cooking apples over a fire, running up and down hills and channelling water down guttering and generally benefitting from being outside. Some delegates visited local sites whilst others headed across 'The Bridge' to Copenhagen where schools and playgrounds were visited - sometimes by bicycle!
After the conference the ISGA Leadership Council met to ensure that the alliance develops and grows. The council runs a series of voluntary working groups focusing on topics including outdoor learning, design, communications and risk. The latter group brought to the council a statement on the important of risk in play and learning. You can download the 'Arma - Höör statement' below.
Next year's conference will be in Berlin - the inspiration behind much of Grounds for Learning's work in Scotland. There their team of Landscape Architects and Educationalists have been creating amazing natural play spaces in school grounds for over 30 years - I recommend you put 4th - 6th September in your diary and join us for what is guaranteed to be an inspirational event.
LTL is represented both on the Leadership Council and the Executive Committee of the ISGA. For more information on the Alliance, our conference programme, loads of downloadable activities produced for International School Grounds Month and how to become a member for free and receive our regular newsletter, visit www.internationalschoolgrounds.org