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‘Invigorate’ playgrounds to increase students' physical activity


Jessica Huxley
5 September 2017

A leading Australian expert in Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) based at Southern Cross University says school children are opting not to use outdated outdoor spaces like empty grassed areas, courts and fixed facilities because the play areas have not been updated or modified with new activity options.

Dr Brendon Hyndman, based at the University’s Gold Coast campus in the School of Education, said evidence shows school students need to be challenged or exposed to new and enticing facilities and equipment, otherwise they move less.

"In my research, students have voiced that boredom can prompt them to misbehave, push boundaries and even become reckless," Dr Hyndman said.

"Secondary students have also voiced a desire for more challenging physical experiences. If they’re not given those attractive options, there can be a tendency to hang around the canteen and lounge areas."

Dr Hyndman will this week release his first book Contemporary School Playground Strategies for Healthy Students, published by Springer, to coincide with National Health and Physical Education Day on 6 September 2017.

In the book, Dr Hyndman promotes strategies to motivate students to venture into their school playgrounds, such as inexpensive mobile equipment like balls, bats, hoops and blocks, making available weather and activity-appropriate uniforms, and providing more creative, imaginative and social activities, for example social walking, music and dance programs, during break times.

Other suggested strategies include requiring schools to have a prescribed minimum amount of physical activity equipment, planning excursions to local sporting venues, themed activity weeks, ensuring equipment is regularly updated to invigorate outdoor spaces and play options, and implementing strategies to counteract adverse weather conditions such as shaded and enclosed areas, indoor programs and more cooled water facilities.

Australian children from more than 9,000 schools experience more than 4,000 recess and lunch periods during their primary schooling years, and while teachers are conscious of changing educational content and their classrooms to prevent boredom, Dr Hyndman said there needed to be the same consideration of how best to use schools’ outdoor spaces for learning, especially for students who prefer not to participate in competitive sports.

"Students should be consulted about the features to be included in their playgrounds so the areas are developed in the best way to increase their health, wellbeing and outdoor learning," he said.

To celebrate Dr Hyndman’s book release, Springer is making one chapter open for a month. 

Media release written in conjunction with Media Centre for Education Research Australia (MCERA).