After a year confined to digital screens and trapped indoors, when they returned to school, these students were delighted to see new outdoor play areas.

Pelton Community Primary School, as part of Outdoor Play and Learning (OPAL), has introduced new play areas to encourage children to connect and learn from the outdoors.

From a clay kitchen to a building zone, students can use their imaginations and creativity while learning vital social skills that they typically wouldn’t learn in the classroom.

The students have now planted 400 saplings, courtesy of the Woodland Trust, which will help secure the future of the environment for generations to come.

Seth Sheering and Megan Bryden from Pelton Community Elementary School

Student Seth Sheering is proud of what he and his classmates have accomplished in helping to protect the environment.

The eight-year-old said, “These trees can help us with a lot of things like oxygen, can build houses for animals and can grow food.

“When I’m older and have kids, they can go out on the field and play in the trees.”

Alan Wallace, Woodland Trust volunteer, who donated equipment, will help teach each student how to plant their own tree.

Nine-year-old Isis Barnard added: “It’s something fun. We sowed the seeds so that we could help grow more plants. It can help animals and humans. “

Pelton Community Elementary School staff and volunteers worked tirelessly on the lockdown to improve the outdoor space for their students.

Children at Pelton Community Primary School, Pelton, County Durham planting 400 trees
Children at Pelton Community Primary School, Pelton, County Durham planting 400 trees

This includes a wildlife area, where children have planted wildflowers and birdhouses have been placed, and students hope to see more wildlife entering their school.

Nine-year-old Leila Crawford explained: “We are planting trees to help stop climate change and to help bees populate all the other plants so that we can get more honey.

“We recycle a lot of things because the things in our gardens are made from old things that people no longer need.”

Along with the wildlife reserve, the school has set up an excavation area, a gravel pit and a hut which is a quiet place for students to read, write or relax.

By adding more outdoor play areas, Pelton Community Elementary School aims to provide more play time for student learning in order to make school an enjoyable experience for all and improve their mental health.

Leila Crawford, Seth Sheering, Megan Bryden and Isis Barnard from Pelton Community Elementary School
Leila Crawford, Seth Sheering, Megan Bryden and Isis Barnard from Pelton Community Elementary School

Nine-year-old Megan Bryden said: “We all appreciate the hard work all teachers have done during the pandemic. Even though these times have been difficult, the teachers have helped us to learn, to have fun and most of all to stay safe.

“The new facilities on the field are so much fun that we want to play it all day, every day. Thank you all.”

The school plants trees to develop its forest and hopes to create a housing estate, so that children can learn where the food comes from, how to cook and then eat the food.

And principal, Karen Telfer, believes the new outdoor space is essential to supporting children’s learning.

She said, “We have a lot of land and we have a wooded area, the kids really liked to play there making dens.

“We have developed many outdoor spaces, we want a wooded area because the outdoors is really important to us.

“Due to the ongoing pandemic, we feel our students have been missing out on opportunities to play and interact physically due to government restrictions and distance learning.

“Due to the Covid pandemic, the majority of our children have spent the last few months in front of a screen, so we feel that by planting a lot of trees and being outside, we are promoting learning, but also support the social skills and emotional resilience of children who have escaped them. .

“It allows children to use their creativity and imagination. All of our play areas are secured by Covid, with each annual group in each area alternating each week. “