OPAL:  Outdoor Play & Learning

Outdoor Play and Learning - OPAL @ Northlea

- School Improvement Through Play - 

The TDSB has partnered with Earth Day Canada and the Outdoor Play and Learning (OPAL) initiative from the United Kingdom to support programming enhancements in play and outdoor learning in the TDSB.  Northlea worked through a competitive process to be selected for the third phase of this partnership. 


We are pleased to let you know that our application was accepted and we have been invited to participate in the OPAL program.  We will join the ranks of a handful of OPAL certified schools within the Toronto District School Board.  


OPAL in the News:

CBC Interview about OPAL & TDSB 

The Globe & Mail feature on OPAL in TDSB

CBC Interview with a pediatric occupational therapist on the importance of outdoor play

What Exactly is OPAL?

Earth Day Canada & OPAL write:


We’re on a mission to bring back what has been disappearing from childhood for decades – the time, space and permission for children and youth to play outdoors in a freely chosen, intrinsically motivated and self-directed way.


The school day is structured to accommodate outdoor play during recess, lunch and after school, but studies show that only 9% of children aged 5-17 get the 60 minutes of heart-pumping activity they need each day.


Earth Day Canada is working to bring a comprehensive play strategy to schools across Canada to support creative and diverse outdoor play experiences, so children can explore their imaginations, their physicality, their friendships and the world around them.


OPAL is the first program in Canada that aims to make play an integral part of the school day. Children engage in self-directed play with “loose parts” (tools, boxes, spare tires, fabric, etc.), boosting their sense of agency and creating a more inclusive and reciprocal social environment.


How Does OPAL Work?

What Are The Benefits of OPAL?

The OPAL approach has been shown to improve relationships between students, create the conditions for healthy risk taking and increase physical activity for many students.   Below are some additional research-based benefits of OPAL programming:

Source: www.outdoorplayandlearning.org.uk
Source: www.outdoorplayandlearning.org.uk

Why OPAL @ Northlea?

At Northlea we are committed to fostering a comprehensive approach to child and youth development.  We are proud of the programming that has been offered to date and feel that OPAL is a beneficial next step.  Play accounts for a significant amount of their time at school.  We want to make every moment count!

From Earth Day Canada
From Earth Day Canada

What's Next?

1.  We will consolidate the student feedback from the inclusive playground inquiry to inform the design of the front yard.  

2.  Our OPAL lead team will meet with Earth Day Canada to begin our planning.

3. We ask that you please send your child to school with rain pants, rain boots and a raincoat on rainy days.  This will enable students to enjoy outdoor play on rainy days.   We will officially begin this approach in September 2018.

4.  You may wish to read a few resources about OPAL and the value of open-ended and (almost) all-weather play with loose parts. 

      a.  Ryerson Study - OPAL in School Communities:  Results from the Pilot Programming in Toronto

      b.  Report - The Impact of OPAL 

5.  Stay tuned for more information in the new school year.  This is a program that will evolve over time. 

6.  Learn with us.  We are new at this too so we all get to begin together - students, staff and families!  What a wonderful opportunity for all of us . . . Join the conversation - ask questions and share your wonderings with the school administration.