Developing Your Outdoor Learning Space Using Wooden Pallets

When it comes to developing your outdoor learning space, there are a couple of ground rules that you should be keeping in mind:

  1. Don’t do anything without involving the learners
  2. Never forever
  3. Own the process, not the product

Enter stage right, the humble wooden pallet: the sturdy, dependable, unsung hero of space development. Stack them up, screw them together or chop them into pieces; the possibilities are endless. Below are a whole host of ways that you can utilise these wooden beauties to develop useful elements in your outdoor learning spaces. But first, a a quick word on sourcing them.

It is possible to get your hands on some really good pallets, but also some total rubbish. If you can get hold EPAL pallets, great. Our school receives frequent deliveries on wooden pallets, so there’s usually a couple lying next to our bins.

If you’re getting them from your local building site and don’t want to get yourself in trouble, make sure you ask. If you’re a little more daring and don’t mind high-tailing it down the road while being chased, then crack on.

Tables

When stacking pallets to make a table, remember to take into account the height of the students that will be using them. Although wooden pallets are pretty stable when stacked, a couple of well-placed screws will ensure that they go nowhere. For taller students, it is possible to flip the pallets onto their side. As you can see in the pictures, we’ve used the pieces of wood from our old playground climbing frame for the table top that was dismantled to make way for our new one. Keep your eyes open and get materials where you can.

Mud kitchens

Need a place to crack on with making a mud pie? Perhaps it’s your friends birthday and they need a beautiful cake. Or maybe you just need somewhere to mix up some mud porridge to work out what the fussy Miss Goldilocks was on about. Mud kitchens are awesome and if you don’t already have one, it should be on your “to think about” list. Buy one if you want, but if you’re tight on the old budget then look no further than the wooden pallet. The photos above are the mud kitchens that we have at our school, but a quick search on Pinterest will send your creative juices spiralling too!

Bug Hotels

In order to create a bug hotel that is as attractive as possible for the little critters, variety is the name of the game. Stacking pallets is a great way to give you lots of little slots that you can fill with all kinds of homely delights. Throw in a couple of screws to ensure stability and away you go. Involve learners by doing some research into the best materials to fill your bug hotel with and get them collecting.

Storage

The old faithful doing what it does best. Holding stuff. Whether you need to organise sticks, plant pots or plastic diggers, the wooden pallet has got your back. Just need things keeping off the floor? Easy.

Planting

Stand them up to hold pots or lie them down to break up your vegetable garden. They’re pleasing for plant pots and useful for potatoes. A lick of blackboard paint goes nicely and also makes your space look like it belongs on Pinterest.


A word to the wise: Your new wooden pallet construction might look beautiful in the first week or so, depending on the quality of the ones you found. It isn’t going to stay that way. It will get weathered and its newness will fade, but it will be strong, it will be stable and it won’t let you down. Wooden pallets for the win.

So there you have it. Take inspiration and feel free to use ideas that take your fancy. Let us know what you do with your pallets if we haven’t mentioned it here and we’ll share it with our community. The possibilities are endless.

Supercharged Storytelling: 10 Ways to Use Your Outdoor Environment to Enhance Storytelling

There are many ways to tell a story. In Grade 1, we are exploring this concept using the outdoor setting to spark curiosity and imagination. There are so many stories that can be authentically explored outdoors, making connections to the setting and character skill sets. Here are 10 ways that you can take storytelling outside.

1) Story Doors

Ignite children’s sense of wonder with a well placed story door that can be stumbled upon. Ask who, what, where, why, when, how questions to gain information about who lives behind the door. Be aware that this may end with you scribbling tiny notes in response to their questions for the foreseeable future. 

2) Story Journeys

Why read a book when you can physically step into the story? Bring the story alive as you travel from place to place imitating the character as they move through the story. A good example of this is; “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt”, squelch through thick, oozy mud and stumble your way through the forest. Don’t have a forest? Get creative.

3) The Environment as a Backdrop

A simple way to take storytelling outdoors is to use the natural setting as a backdrop to your play. Most fairy tales are largely set in the great outdoors.

4) Create settings

Whether it’s real size or a small world setting, use your natural loose parts to create settings and story maps.

5) Story Stones

Your small world setting is not complete without tiny characters to retell the story with. Grab a handful of stones and use chalk, pens, or glued on photographs to create your own character stones.

6) Mud Kitchen

If you have a mud kitchen already, then get busy making the perfect porridge for Baby Bear, or stir up your own Stone Soup. If you don’t have a mud kitchen yet, build one.

7) Light your Fire

After creating wonderful delights in the mud kitchen, light a fire or your Kelly Kettle and make the real thing. Taste the porridge and see if it’s “Just right” or harvest some vegetables and make a stone soup.

8) Skill Development

Explore characters through their skill sets. Batoning is really easy skill where children can experience splitting wood like the wood cutter in Hansel and Gretel or Little Red Riding Hood. Alternatively, create maps like Percy The Park Keeper. Look out for good stories to connect with outdoor skill development.

9) Problem Solving

Oh-oh! The Wolf is back in town and he’s hungry! Help the Three Little Pigs to build new wolf-proof homes to keep them safe. Get creative and put your outdoor skills to the test, helping out characters from different stories.

10) Make noise!

Make the most of being outside away from quiet classrooms and make noise! Howl like a wolf, stomp like a giant and growl like a bear. Explore stories through sound. Using buckets and natural materials as instruments create soundscapes to compliment the events of a story.


So there you have it. Take inspiration and feel free to use ideas that take your fancy. Whether it’s sunshine or snow, grab a book to match the season and step outside!

Here are some of our favourite stories: