Well-designed and accessible public spaces are an incredibly important asset to our towns and cities. They provide opportunities for people to come together and play a vital role in the social and economic life of communities.
Successfully designed outdoor public spaces are inclusive of the diversity of groups present within the community and create social places for everyone in that society to meet and participate. Indeed, the social value of open space lies in the opportunities it provides for social interaction, social mixing, and social inclusion. Creating a space that successfully engages people is an art form that heavily relies on innovation, accessibility, good design and the input of the community.
New kinds of public spaces and meeting places are being created in towns, cities and residential areas, including downtown locations, street markets, shopping precincts, community centres, parks, and neighborhood spaces. They include play areas, event or performance spaces as well as areas for rest and relaxation.
There are many factors that contribute to successful public spaces that are not solely in the hands of the architect, urban designer, or town planner; they also rely on people adopting, using, and managing the space – it’s true that people make places, more than places make people.
Child-friendly outdoor public spaces are especially important. They give young people an arena to learn some of the rules of communal life, exchange ideas, cement friendships, and learn new skills. It is imperative that cities and regions consider a more holistic approach to child development and supporting new and creative ways to foster and sustain learning beyond the classroom. One innovative approach to bringing education into the public realm is through playful learning – supporting adult-child interactions and neighborhood engagement in places where children and families regularly spend time. Alternative learning experiences that can heighten interest, spark creativity, and are socially interactive.
With their unusual shapes and wonderful sounds, outdoor musical instruments are both conversation starters and people magnets. They add a fun touch to public spaces whilst also being educational, therapeutic, and engaging. Intended to bring people together in unexpected ways, they foster exchange between the player and the passers-by – creating a comfortable atmosphere for individuals to truly express themselves while interacting with each other.
Putting an interesting twist on traditional playground equipment, outdoor musical instruments in a public space bring about opportunities for parents, grandparents, and guardians to share an activity with their children, explore their curiosity and teach them (or learn alongside them) new musical skills as well as a range of motor and social skills. Exploring the instruments can instigate conversations around a number of subjects including language, culture, color, and numbers.
Now more than ever we are seeing the importance of expanding opportunities for playful learning—that is, child-directed experiences that are driven by curiosity and exploration—outside of the classroom. Outdoor musical instruments can help transform everyday spaces into powerful learning opportunities for children and families. Easily installed and without requiring too much space or expensive surfacing, they can be used to reinvent everyday spaces as fun learning opportunities that organically prompt the kinds of interactions that help children thrive. Changing everyday spaces and making them more extraordinary.
Challenging our town and city planners to recognize the benefits of reimagining our public spaces as positive playful learning opportunities for all learners, young or old and with varying abilities, should see vibrant, welcoming spaces for everyone to use and enjoy.
Music has always been a powerful way to bring people together and we have a vision for creating family-friendly musical oases in towns and cities across the world.
Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunication chooses Smart Bench as award in elementary schools competition
Ministry of Trade, tourism and telecommunication of Serbia started a platform for elementary students, “IT caravan”, which promotes the application of digital technologies and internet in education and their safe use. Competition is annual, and includes 2000 pupils from more than 25 elementary schools in Serbia.
Ministry wanted to award winning schools and their students with solution that would be digital, innovative, yet demonstrate digital transformation in easy to understand manner.
Strawberry Energy Smart Bench was chosen as an award for the winner of “IT caravan” competition, because of its unique combination of physical presence (it is a bench) and digital assets (it provides charging, WiFi internet, customized landing page), and IoT (environmental sensors). It is good example of how digital transformation can influence many aspects of our lives, even urban furniture. It is installed in the school’s playground.
Personal quote from the client
“I am convinced that Smart Bench will become a new place for socializing, as pupils will be able to charge their mobile phones, browse the internet, but also to find out the temperature, humidity, level of CO2 or noise in their environment.”
Tatjana Matic, State secretary at Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications
We’re here to answer any questions! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Open-ended play is vital to a child’s development. It enables learning in a truly holistic way, through active play and exploration – with no instruction or direction. With no pre-determined limitations and no fixed answer – open-ended play means children simply follow their imagination and allow the play to go in any direction their creativity takes them. As there are no set outcomes, there is no right or wrong way to play – no rules, no expectations, no specific problems to solve, and no pressure to produce a finished product.
The Benefits of Open-Ended Play
The benefits for children engaging in open-ended play are numerous. Allowing for self-directed exploration and repetitive behaviors gives children the chance to experiment and consolidate their learning. Open-ended resources support this creativity while resources that are made for a purpose have a fixed outcome e.g. a large cardboard box can be a car, a shop, a spaceship whereas a puzzle will always be a puzzle. While it has its own educational benefits, it will only ever be one thing.
The creative nature of open-ended play also enhances cognitive skills, such as working memory, cognitive flexibility, self-regulation, and self-discovery.
Children can focus on ‘creating’, based on their inner inspiration and motivation. It is an outlet for a stream of continuous thought development and expression. Open-ended play links directly with the Early Years Foundation Stage, allowing practitioners to observe children using a multitude of skills – for example creating props to support role-play or investigating shape, space, and measure. These observations also link to the Characteristics of Effective Learning – fostering opportunities for children to create and think critically, play and explore and be active in their learning.
Music Fosters Open Ended Play
Unstructured outdoor musical play offers opportunities for children to discover ways to express their thoughts, ideas, and feelings, and improvising with music is a wonderful way to foster open-ended play. Outdoor musical instruments located in parks and playgrounds allow children to explore their musical selves, including their originality, and offer a safe, secure space in which to experiment with improvisation.
Open-ended musical play differs from teacher-structured music time in an educational setting. Initiated by children of their own volition and intrinsically motivated, play and participation prevail performance. This is critical since many self-confidence issues regarding music and the performing arts are centered around the idea that you can “get it wrong” or that what you’ve created is less than perfect. Many of the Percussion Play outdoor musical instruments are tuned to a simple five-note musical scale called the pentatonic scale. Pentatonic scale notes are harmonious in whichever order they are played and great for developing musical skills and technique without tuition. Since it is impossible to play a ‘wrong’ note anyone can create music that sounds good – building the confidence of inexperienced or very young musicians and encouraging spontaneous musical behavior. Suddenly, musical composition isn’t just for prodigies – it’s a form of artistic expression that every child is capable of doing, free to experiment with new concepts as they realize there’s no right or wrong way to engage.
Although children are surrounded daily by a variety of musical experiences, there are fewer and fewer opportunities for them to actively and freely engage in the music-making itself. Modern life means they’re inundated with melodies emitted from computer games, phones, TV shows, and toys, meaning most of the music they encounter is “unchosen,” making them passive recipients of the music in their lives and not actively engaged in its selection or making. Given the chance, children are natural composers and love to experiment with the sounds all around them. The freedom of improvisation has significant effects on the development of a child’s creative musical thinking, and that musical originality—the way the child uniquely manipulates musical sounds—increases along with their musical potential.
Open-Play Environments to Practice and Hone Key Skills
Children grow emotionally, socially, creatively, and cognitively through spontaneous music and movement, with their impromptu musical performances often revealing what they are thinking, seeing, or doing. Even when their language isn’t quite at a level to articulate their fears, excitements, or opinions, the type of music they produce during open-ended play will speak volumes.
It is imperative that young children are given access to environments that support this musical freedom, interaction, and development as well as the time to enjoy them. The permanence of outdoor musical instruments means no tidying away at the end of the day, allowing children to constantly revisit and tweak their musical compositions or repeat their choice of learning – allowing them to merge all the information they have gathered when experimenting with pitch, tempo, and dynamics.
Playgrounds are an awesome place to encourage open-ended play. Spaces that children of all backgrounds can enjoy in play areas that fuel young imaginations, encourage interaction and engage all of the senses.
Encouraging Open-Ended Play
Open-ended play strips away all rules, expectations, and time frames, and encourages children to think for themselves. Children learn to react better in situations, they learn to make choices, and they feel more inspired. When a child is asked to solve an academic or a real-life problem, they will be better equipped to resolve it through using the skills they have practiced and learned during open-ended play.
Whether you’re playing with a child or asking about their play, use open-ended questions and avoid directing their play or taking over their lead. Nothing squashes open-ended play more than being told what or how to play. Follow their lead and nurture their creativity and problem-solving skills.
By permitting our resources, learning environments, and our support as adults to be open-ended, learning through play continues to be dynamic – and most of all, fun.
Outdoor Musical Instruments in Elementary Schools Help in The Race to Prevent Nature Deficit Disorder
We are spending more time inside than ever before – even though it is well documented that time spent in the great outdoors is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to maintain or improve our overall health and wellbeing. Computers, tablets, cell phones, and video games all compete to hog our attention and keep us from stepping outside into nature to decompress. Most concerning of all is the impact this lack of exposure to green outdoor space is having on the health of our children.
The concern about children spending too much time indoors has become so great that it has been given its own term – ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ or NDD. Although it’s not a recognized medical condition, concerns about its effects on young people’s wellbeing are attracting widespread attention.
Instead of basking in natural sunlight, many children today are spending hours of their time basking in the glow of some form of screen, disturbing their natural circadian rhythms, impacting their sleep quality, and forming a detachment from the natural world.
Problems such as difficulty concentrating, high-stress levels, and poor physical health. Diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and depression are common companions of a sedentary indoor lifestyle. Sunlight triggers the body’s vitamin D production, which in turn helps us fight off inflammation, lowers blood pressure, improves brain function, bone and muscle health. Being outside in fresh air and sunlight protects growing eyes, with the ample light of the outdoors preventing their eyes from working harder than they need to.
There is too much at stake here simply to accept the situation as an inevitable consequence of modernity. It is the joint responsibility of parents, educators, and urban planners to help this ‘indoor generation’ toeasily and safely spend more time outside, reconnecting with the natural world – wherever they are located. If children are given the opportunity to experience nature, even in simple ways, interaction and engagement follow quite naturally. Time spent outside needs to be an everyday occurrence, and if we design our cities—including our homes and schools—with an integrated approach, with landscaping and architecture blending to work in harmony with nature, it could become a commonplace pattern.
The Outdoor Classroom
Classrooms without walls are a great way to promote time spent outside for both outdoor learning and play. There are countless physiological, social, and academic benefits to learning outside – for both pupils and teachers – that indoor classroom lessons just cannot match. Outdoor learning encourages kid’s creativity, builds their attention spans, and increases their desire to explore, yet, despite the outdoors purported to be so significant and beneficial, it is still often overlooked or under-utilized when teaching elementary children.
Outdoor classrooms allow a school to offer daily opportunities to learn outside; a place for telling stories, a place for cooking, a place for supporting the arts, a place for play. Children can move seamlessly between indoor and outdoor spaces with alternative methods of learning providing a host of advantages for children, who often don’t realize they’re learning when outside.
Well-equipped outdoor classrooms provide wonderful opportunities to deliver unique and engaging experiences for pupils outside of classroom walls while exploring numerous subjects such as math, science, literacyand language, and unquestionably, music.
Music in The Outdoor Classroom
Some things just work better outdoors, and music is one of them!
A great music program uses the whole school environment. Musical instruments in your outdoor classroom and/or playground will encourage children to learn about music through free play and exploration – subtly integrating music and ‘outdoor time’ into their everyday school experience.
Children revel in the freedom to explore the range of sounds, tempos, and dynamics of the musical instruments and free play is what gives them mastery. Children often feel less inhibited outdoors and musical playground equipment will help introduce basic musical concepts whilst being sure that the focus is on the fun. This notion of experimentation, of flexibility, of just having a go are all elements needed to become confident, rounded musicians of the future.
Music is an intensely social experience; children learn to cooperate when making music together, combining their efforts to solve problems, make decisions, and work together towards a common goal. Collaboration is needed to create a new melody or rhythm and they’re required to listen to each other as well as the sounds produced, to share each other’s ideas and express their own. Children can fine-tune their listening skills outside and develop confidence in projecting their voices across the space.
Music also has an inherently physical dynamic; movement to music is a wonderful way to get kids active, offering opportunities for both fine and gross motor activity. Outdoor environments not only offer greater freedom of movement than a classroom but also allow for less constraint to ways of behaving and thinking, making the outdoors open to richer experiences due to the increased space and the creative possibilities it presents.
Children can learn to explore their emotions through music and can learn to share these emotions with others; plus, they’ll learn they can use music to affect their emotional state. When you are feeling angry, nothing makes you feel better than playing the drums real loud, right?
The introduction of an outdoor musical space or trail as part of a school’s outdoor education program will help children discover the joy and empowerment of music-making while reaping the benefits of time in the natural environment.
Watching a class of children playing outdoor instruments prove that, when presented with the opportunity, life outdoors is still something children benefit greatly from and, more importantly, enjoy.