School Yard Seating areas - School Grounds Greening
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Photograph by Robin Moore,
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Places to sit in

Children need to have comfortable, quiet, shady places to sit in away from all the noise and running about. They are interested in having pleasant places to sit IN and not just nice things to sit ON.

Seating arrangements

When asked what they would like to sit on, the first thing that pops into children's minds are benches and picnic tables. This is usually because they have not experienced other types of outdoor public seating. It is very important to choose seating and tables that are of an appropriate size and shape for children.

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When sitting in a row on a bench, children cannot see each other's faces or gather around some object or group activity. Picnic tables have two benches opposite each other so the children are in two rows facing one another. The children can see and interact with those who are across the table from them but not with the children who are on the same side of the table as themselves. Also, the width of most picnic tabletops is more appropriate for adults than for children. Children interacting at picnic tables can often be seen sitting on the table with their feet on the benches or kneeling on the benches to reach something they are sharing with children opposite. The width of the picnic table and the shape of the benches frequently does not suit the size of the children or the activities they commonly engage in.

To make seating and tables of appropriate shapes and sizes for children, ask them to define what they would like to DO when they are sitting in quiet spaces. Next, ask them to think about the best seating shapes or arrangements of seating for the activities they have identified. After children have considered how they would like to use seating, they realize the inadequacy of straight benches and come up with ideas for seating placed in circles, semi-circles, horseshoes, hexagons, octagons, squares, triangles, wavy lines, etc.

Seating type and location

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Children frequently ask for seating made of natural things such as stumps, logs, tires, boulders and slabs of rock. They also identify problems with existing seating and its location.

For example:

  • unshaded metal seating that is too hot to sit on in Summer
  • benches and picnic tables that are too dirty to sit on because they are placed in active areas where they are used as play objects and walked upon
  • poorly maintained wood seating that is rotted or splintered in places
  • seating that cannot be used because it is placed too close to soccer areas where children can be hurt by balls or people running into them
  • seating without shade
  • insufficient seating
  • seating placed in areas that are out-of-bounds
  • inequitable distribution of seating between grades

Outdoor classroom seating

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Photo: Emily Coffey
Creating shaded spaces for quiet play and social interaction with enough seating in one area for a whole class will encourage teachers to take children outside to work. Tables of different shapes and sizes can also be incorporated into seating arrangements.

Some schools have built large gazebos and other sunshelters with enough seating to accommodate one or two classes at a time. One problem with sun shelters such as these is that the shade only falls under the roof when the sun is directly overhead. To create shade or a wind break for classes at work outside, you can make detachable canvas "walls" to attach to the sun shelter's support posts. An outdoor classroom mural could be painted onto both sides of blank hanging walls.

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