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1.1       Background to the Study

The need for educating children became inevitable since education in a contemporary world is seen as the corner stone for the individual social and economic development. Education forms the basis for literacy, skill acquisition and technical advancement. Osakwe (2006) described education as an indispensable tool for nation building and this involves a systematic training and instruction designed to transmit knowledge, skill, potentials and abilities, which enable an individual to contribute efficiently to his or her growth and development. Based on this, modern societies show serious concern in the education of their young ones. They make provisions for their pupils through primary education which takes effect in primary school.

Maduewesi (1999) observed that one of the most basic principles of modern teaching is that teachers should find and use the most attractive approaches to help the learner to learn. Thus, the teacher has to device methods that are sufficiently motivating to persuade the learner to learn what is necessary. Play method of teaching enables the pupils to be actively involved in the learning process whereby they act as stakeholders in an imagined or real scenario. This technique compliments the traditional teaching. In play method, the teacher selects a particular event or situation that illuminates key theories or may be of importance to the topic of the study. Pupils are given detailed background readings and assigned stakeholder rules as preparation. The format of interaction between stakeholders varies and may depend on time or resources available. For young children, play is known to be their most natural activity which not only contributes to their development but also gives them satisfaction, enjoyment as well as helps in developing their potential in full (Ibiam, 1997).

Play is the root and foundation of creativity in arts and science as well as in the daily life. Morffitt, (2003) describes play as a straight exploration or learning activity which provide for information seeking behaviour. It is a powerful inner force through which a child reaches out to interact with his environment and it involves movement and different sensory modes (Aleke, 2011). The child seems to learn more when he/she can move around, handle, and manipulate objects. Through such sensory motor activities, he/she learns much about the properties of matter and finds way(s) to adapt to a complex environment through play experiences related to cause and effects. Children who are prevented from having a wide range of sensory motor (play) experiences in these early years, due to illness, over protection, or other reasons are not likely to develop certain kinds of cognitive information in the same way later.

Play also refers to a range of voluntary intrinsic activities that are normally associated with pleasure and enjoyment. It also involves some manipulation of objects in the environment by a person with others. Play method becomes more effective when it is taken to a zone where pupils can relate what they are learning to their immediate environment. Playgrounds are places where children’s play can take off and flourish. Good outdoor playgrounds are large enough and designed in such a way that children’s play can come to full expression, where children can make a mess, run, jump and hide, where they can shout, whistle and explore the natural world. A variety of factors determine the quality of a play ground for young children from infants to eight-year-olds.

Addressing play needs of young children is within the domain of occupational therapy (American Occupational Therapy Association, 2014). Exploring play experiences and factors which affect a child’s play at this key developmental stage supports the delivery of holistic, family-centred occupational therapy (Coughlan & Lynch, 2011). Additionally, the need to research children at play falls within the priorities of the Occupational Therapy National Research Agenda (Association of Occupational Therapists Ireland, 2013) which recommends undertaking basic research to examine relationships among impairment, activity, and participation. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neuro developmental disorder characterized by impairments in social interaction, communication, and restricted, repetitive behaviours (American Psychiatric Association (APA), 2013).

These include design of the play area, safety issues, play equipment, accessibility, and adult supervision. Outdoor play should not become too academic and too teacher controlled. This can be called the outdoor play. Outdoor play offers children a diversity of environmental stimuli that contributes to increased use of senses, increased health benefits, interactive physical activity, and experimentation with social situations that prepare children for future life experiences. Outdoor play offers children a richer and more diverse play environment than indoor and often digital play which allows children greater creativity and flexibility in their play.

Outdoor play and brain development does not stop once a child enters into school, in fact, outdoor play is equally important for children of all ages. Research and studies show us that active, outdoor, free play can lead to improved academic performance. Outdoor play is an experiential process of learning by performing acts/experiences that takes place predominantly out of the classroom setting or through exposure to the out-of-doors (Fägerstam, 2012). Lederman (2007) conclude that outdoor play activities are the most valuable informal science learning and it is voted to be more impactful to learning of science.

Lederman found out that ‘learning environments that allow students to interact physically and intellectually with instructional materials through hands-on experimentation and minds-on reflection’ make substantial impacts on students’ learning. Though outdoor play is effective but the quality is not ascertained. More so, teachers use the outdoor environment in children’s learning, though it likely varies between schools as well as between teachers at each school. However, there are signs that compulsory school teachers are using the outdoor environment in the school curriculum more than they did before. Schools report that they practise outdoor education on a regular basis (Óladóttir, 2008).

The importance of outdoor play is evident in the fact that health promotion position statements have been designed in relation to it. According to the Position Statement on Active Outdoor Play (Tremblay et al., 2015), “Access to active play in nature and outdoors-with its risks- is essential for healthy child development.Studies support the premise of the value of outdoor play. Bjørgen’s (2015) study demonstrated that the wellbeing of 3 to 5 year-olds was supported through their involvement in physical play which provided them with social relationships, freedom to act, challenges, and opportunities for variation, in the outdoors environment.

Parents and educators agree that outdoor play is a natural and critical part of a child’s healthy development (Clements, 2004). Outdoors offers unique opportunities to children including: access to space with opportunities to be themselves, fresh air, the experience of weather, and contact with natural things, freedom to be adventurous, discovery and play, stimulation of the senses, movement experiences, social interactions, and learning safety (White, 2014).

Outdoor play has its own advantages but it is often neglected.  A drift to increased time spent indoors has been identified in the lifestyles of children today, who play outdoors less than their parents did (Bassett, John, Conger, Fitzhugh, & Coe, 2014). Research posits this changing nature of children’s lives as a major concern and suggests that the child-nature connection is under serious threat (Heritage Council, 2011). Considering that the prevalence of obesity is at its highest ever and increasing, it could be surmised that these two phenomena are not unrelated (Ng, as cited in Tremblay, 2015). Outdoor play pertains not only to the child’s home and community environment, but also their school environment. Indeed, in the UK, most children spend more than 2000 hours of their life in a school playground, probably more than in any other outdoor play environment (Grounds for Learning, 2012).

There is also a widespread belief that spending time outdoors, especially in a natural, pollution-free environment, is good for children’s physical health and well-being. Despite the benefits of using the outdoors in children’s learning, teachers in many countries like Nigeria are concerned about diverse risks in the outdoor environment (Kernan and Devine 2010). This concern has developed in recent years or decades. Stephenson (2003) sees it as the impact of discourse about the dark side ofrisk, with emphasizes on the possibility of failure and injury. Teachers’ view of the risks differs across countries. In studies of preschool practitioners’ attitudes by Sandseter in 2012, the researcher found children’s risky play important for their development and well-being. But a difference was found in the extent of their support for such play. This study would therefore examine the quality of outdoor play in primary schools.

1.2       Statement of the Problem

The goal of teaching and learning is to effect desirable behaviours on the learner. Methods used by teachers in teaching are critical to the achievement of theenvisaged goals as stipulated in the National Policy on Education. The play method with the use of outdoor play of teaching that is advocated in the national policy on pre-primary and primary education seems not effectively used in most schools, perhaps because teachers are not well trained or may be because the materials used in play method of teaching are inadequate which may affect the quality. Based on the identified gap, this study will examine the quality of outdoor play in primary schools in Kwara South.

1.3       Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to examine the quality of outdoor play in Kwara South public primary schools. Specifically, the study would examine

  1. The outdoor play activities in Kwara South public primary schools.
  2. The quality of outdoor play in Kwara South public primary schools.
  3. The level of utilization of outdoor play in Kwara South public primary schools.
  4. The extent of teachers’ skills in the use of outdoor play in Kwara South public primary schools.

1.4       Research Questions

The following research questions will be raised:

  1. What are the outdoor play activities in Kwara South public primary schools?
  2. What are the quality of outdoor play in Kwara South public primary schools?
  3. What are the level of utilization of outdoor play in Kwara South public primary schools?
  4. What are the extent of teachers’ skills in the use of outdoor play in Kwara South public primary schools?

1.5       Scope of the Study

This study intends to investigate the quality of outdoor play in Kwara South public primary schools. The population for this study will consist of all teachers of primary schools in the selected primary schools. A descriptive research method of the quantitative survey design will be used to gather relevant information using a researcher designed questionnaire.

1.6       Clarification of Major Terms and Variables

The following terms and variables are clarified as used in the study;

Outdoor Learning: this is a learning process that takes place outside the four wall of the classroom.

Outdoor Learning Environment: environment that are closes related to the instruction taking place outside the four wall of the classroom.

Perceptual Development: The capability to gain, understand and react in an appropriate manner to sensory and motor experiences.

1.7       Significance of the Study

This study would be of great importance to the following; teachers, Curriculum Developer, pupils, Stakeholders, parents, Ministries of Education, Governmental and Non- Governmental Organization andResearchers.

The findings of this study could be beneficial to teachers in primary schools in a way that it would enable them to collaborate with their pupils and make use of outdoor play activities which are relevant to their field of study.  It could also enable the teachers’ to create an archive of relevant activities and materials for themselves outside the classroom.

To the pupils, the use of outdoor play would enable them to effectively learn and retain what they have learnt and thereby advancing their academic performance. Besides, this study will help to develop positive attitude of pupils toward outdoor play for effective learning. The study is also significant to the educational system and curriculum developer. This is because when teachers blend their teaching with outdoor play activities and the learners learn effectively, the knowledge acquired will reflect in the society positively.

This study could help the Ministry of Education to understand the importance of outdoor play and it will be useful in formulating policy for the improvement of resources in academic environment. It would provide useful information upon format and types of resources to be design develop and recommend to the schools. Furthermore ,this study would greatly assist researchers who might want to conduct similar studies in future on this concept, thus contributing to the existing body of knowledge and also serve as reference material for further research.

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