Ridley’s Unique Playscape Supports Physical Literacy Goals

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Ridley’s all-natural playscape, which officially opened in late 2015, is at the forefront of physical literacy promotion by encouraging creative play, risky behaviours and fundamental movement skills, prescribed in Sport Canada’s Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) plan.

The concept of physical literacy came to Ridley College through Brock University and Dr. James Mandigo and it has long been promoted by Sport Canada and Sport for Life. Physical literacy is the mastering of fundamental movement skills, such as running, skipping, jumping and throwing. In practice, varying sets of skills are introduced to children at appropriate ages and stages of development. For years, Ridley has drawn upon leading physiological and psychological research on the topic to promote physical literacy; which is also pivotal in mental and social development.

Since this model was introduced at Ridley, our competitive sports programmes have experienced phenomenal success, while Lower School physical literacy programmes have been implemented to improve overall fitness, health and well-being through increased active play. This paradigm helps students develop a lasting relationship with physical activity and better prepares student athletes for successful long term athletic careers. Active play, of which our younger students enjoy three times a day for 20 minutes, has also been linked to notable cognitive function and development.

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The all-natural playscape – which was a part of the 2014-2015 annual giving campaign – is a very tangible example of how Ridley is maintaining its leading edge on physical literacy promotion in independent schools. The idea for the playscape was born from students’ International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (PYP) Exhibition projects and Ridley decided that a unique, topographical landscape with obscure apparatuses would be the ideal way to encourage active play and reach school-wide physical literacy goals. The playscape creates a far more engaging and creative experience than the traditional, manufactured playgrounds and also enacts our objective to be more environmentally conscious.

“Our challenge was to create a Lower School playground that encouraged more open-ended and creative play, while at the same time, promoting a connection with nature.”

– Mrs. Hanna Kidd

Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds, a Canadian playground designer and builder, brought forward the perfect solution – a playground constructed of all-natural elements, that could be designed to fit the needs of the students. Founded in 1982 by Adam Bienenstock, Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds aims to bring nature back into the lives of children, so that they can develop an appreciation for the environment, while engaging in active play.

“Over time, somehow what we thought was fun disappeared from kids’ lives. Their roam rates dropped right down, their world got smaller and their screens got bigger, and the need for this [type of playscape] grew.”

– Mr. Adam Bienenstock, CEO and Founder of Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds

It was clear that Bienenstock’s values aligned with Ridley’s, and the common goal of educating students on the importance of environmental conservation made for the perfect fit. After consulting with Bienenstock and receiving input from Ridley’s faculty, staff and students, the Playscape construction officially begun. Ridley was able to select playground elements that would challenge the students, encourage curiosity and creative thinking and be utilized at each age and stage of development.

The Playscape officially opened in December of 2015, but has since grown and has already become the perfect place for students to have fun, get active and even relax. It currently includes a number of large elements, such as a tree fort with a rope bridge, a rock climbing wall, a multipurpose amphitheater (outdoor classroom) and gaga ball court, tunnels, log clusters, a barrel swing, a willow dome and a sand area that includes a water feature and slides. As time passes, Ridley hopes to add several new elements, while the current elements continue to grow and evolve.

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According to Lower School faculty, instances of playground conflict have dramatically decreased with the opening of the new Playscape and the Athletics Department has already observed instances of creative play, risky behaviours and fundamental movement skills – elements that are viewed as positive markers in physical literacy studies.

The Playscape offers the perfect place for our younger students to have daily physical activity, while exploring movement and improving their social and emotional well-being. “The natural playscape will continue to help our students develop an appreciation, curiosity and respect for their world, leading to better physical and mental health.” – Mrs. Hanna Kidd

This Playscape was made possible with the support of generous donors. It is with this continued support that will Ridley be able to grow our school’s arts, academics and athletics programmes, and continue to provide students with the opportunities and tools necessary to live flourishing lives.

THE NATIONAL POST: REPORT ON PRIVATE SCHOOLS, June 4th, 2016

Ridley College earns a rare scholastic distinction

Iris Winston

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Ridley College, already one of the best-known independent boarding schools in Canada, now has a prestigious new designation.

Early this year, Ridley became an International Baccalaureate (IB) continuum school. It is the only boarding school in the country to have achieved this distinction and one of just 15 schools across Canada to offer the world-class international programme. Only two other independent boarding schools in North America offer IB continuum programming.

Founded in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1968, the International Baccalaureate Organization is a non-profit educational foundation that offers “highly respected programmes of international education that develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills needed to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalizing world. Schools must be authorized, by the IB organization, to offer any of the programmes. Schools usually develop the IB continuum over time, adding programmes as the school grows.”

“Ridley has been on a six-year journey with IB,” says Ridley’s headmaster Ed Kidd, who returned to Canada to take the position with Ridley four years ago after 14 years at the Shanghai American School, where he was also involved with and taught the IB programmes.

Developed for students from three to 19 years of age, the IB framework comprises three segments: the Primary Years Programme (PYP), the Middle Years Programme (MYP), and the Diploma Programme (DP). Holistic in style, they all encourage individual learning styles, open communication and compassion, as well as cognitive development and international thinking.

Ridley has run the PYP and DP programmes for the last five years. It was certified for the MYP programme earlier this year, completing the rare designation as an IB continuum school.

The PYP, designed for students aged three to 12, focuses on encouraging inquiring minds, inside and outside the classroom. Using an inter-disciplinary approach, the PYP focuses on teaching students to see the connections between subject areas.

The MYP, designed for students aged 11 to 16, focuses on intellectual challenge and encouraging students to become creative, critical and reflective thinkers. It aims to foster skills for communication, intercultural understanding and global engagement, crucial for success in the 21st century.

The Diploma Programme is for students ages 16 to 19 and focuses on intellectual breadth and depth. Through all three programmes, students are challenged to excel in intellectual curiosity and development, personal growth, empathy and high ethical standards, while working through a broad curriculum. As described in the background material, the aim is to develop “internationally minded people with a broad range of human capacities and responsibilities that go beyond intellectual development and academic success.” This leads to greater success at the post-secondary level and eventually in the students’ professional lives.

“IB is meant to teach students how to think from a very young age,” says Kidd. “Rather than a curriculum — although we are still using the Ontario K to 12 curriculum and offer an optional Ontario Secondary School Diploma — it is an approach to learning, a pedagogical philosophy that incorporates the best of 21st-century education.”

He describes IB as “student-centred, inquiry-based, inter-disciplinary and international,” noting “it brings the world and global-mindedness and global competency into the curriculum.”

Kidd points out that every aspect of the IB approach, which is “founded on taking action and service to others,” is in line with the philosophy and internationalism of Ridley College.

“We have Canadians from all over the country and a long history of bringing students from around the world to the school. Currently, 44 different countries are represented. The IB philosophy also fits in with our commitment to service.” The Ridley College motto is Terar dum prosim  (May I be consumed in service.)

Most of all, he says, “it’s good teaching. The IB framework makes learning a rich and rigorous experience. We’ve adopted a world-class approach to teaching and learning that allows us to prepare students from around the world for living in an increasingly global society.”

All this augurs well for the future success of IB students. Their training places them at the forefront in their post-secondary studies, as well as putting them ahead in the selection process at top universities around the world.

Established in 1889 as a boys’ school, and co-educational since 1973, Ridley is one of the oldest and most prestigious independent schools in Canada. From the beginning, Ridley, which is located on an attractive 90-acre campus in the Niagara region, has combined high academic standards, a wide range of extra-curricular activities, a service commitment and internationalism.

This story was produced by Postmedia Content Works on behalf of Ridley College for commercial purposes. Postmedia’s editorial departments had no involvement in the creation of this content.