See More Projects


  • Loose Parts Play: A Guide to a Better Recess

  • VIDEO: St. Vladimir Catholic Elementary School

  • VIDEO: Dr. Donald Massey School

Related Content


September is here and Alberta students are heading back to class, but students under the age of 12 are not yet eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. While masks, physical distancing and other public health policies are fairly straightforward to apply in many classes, Physical Education brings unique challenges: masks are not worn during moderate-to-vigorous…


Written by Megan Weiler, Krista Trim and Kayli McClelland The days are getting longer, the sun is shining warmer, and the people are coming out to play. It’s spring time, and we’re going to enjoy every minute of it. The easiest way to take advantage of the changing weather is to get out there and…
The EAS Box: Move Your Body, Grow Your Brain


It’s no secret that physical activity boosts brain health: just read the 2018 ParticpACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth! While we all know that movement can help our children and youth learn better, oftentimes we find it hard to prioritize physical activity. Teachers might have curricular outcomes to focus on, out-of-school…


Written by Kayli McClelland, Creative Media Specialist, Ever Active Schools If you’re like me – you live close to many of your loved ones and you enjoy being active – Family Day is really nice.   It’s a Monday off in the middle of February. The cold of Alberta’s winter has started to set in.…


Written by Tracey Coutts, Ever Active Schools THIS TIME LAST YEAR, WHO COULD HAVE PREDICTED THE DIFFICULTY OF THE DECISIONS TO COME AROUD HALLOWEEN 2020? A Halloween night, with a full moon, falling on a Saturday for the first time in five years, should be a spooky season lover’s dream. And yet, here we are,…


Written by Chesa Peter and Kayli McClelland If you’ve lived in Alberta between October and May (okay, really, any time of year), you know that our winters here can be harsh! The cold weather isn’t going anywhere and neither are we, so it’s time to learn to get along. The Cold Weather Recess Planning Guide…


“It got me running too and connected to the kids on a different level.” – A 2019/2020 Run Club coach The Alberta Medical Association (AMA) Youth Run Club has been supporting Alberta students with free, fun and flexible programming for 7 years, and while clubs may look a little different this year, all the great…


Originally published in Healthy Schools Alberta Magazine Fall 2016 Edition Recognizing the importance of promoting healthy learning environments, floor decals offer a way to modify school spaces, helping to activate your students and enliven your lessons. Activities that range in intensity have demonstrated the ability to increase a student’s readiness to learn. The Don’t Walk…
A laminated, corrugated plastic board with an image on it that says "Trail Tales". This is the introductory page to inform passersby of the purpose of the Trail Tales project.


Written by Tracey Coutts and Scott Bailey Looking for a versatile, cost-effective way to increase physical activity and improve literacy in your school community?  Well, have we got a tale for you. Trail Tales was launched in Parkland School Division 70 as a means to promote physical activity and literacy, while enhancing the active travel…


Written by Chelsea Cattroll, Ever Active Schools, with support from Dr. Kevin wâsakâyâsiw Lewis, kâniyâsihk Culture Camps We turn to the land when we are stressed to re-connect to ourselves and become grounded. During a time that can be perceived as stressful and turbulent, I have seen that many people are starting to return to…

Loose Parts Play

20190604 Ekota Loose Parts Play KM 0456

“Loose parts” refers to any material that can be moved, carried, stacked or altered(1). Loose parts can include natural materials, like sticks, stones, water, leaves and sand; or recycled materials, like cardboard boxes, ropes, tires, pots and pans, milk crates and tarps. Typically, loose parts play is set outdoors, allowing for the natural environment to become a variable of the play experience and provide the potential for generous physical boundaries.

Research specific to loose parts play is full of benefits and characteristics, including social, emotional and cognitive outcomes(2) and increased physical activity levels(3,4) considered promising and sustainable, but not established or certain. According to the International Play Association(5), play is instinctive, voluntary and spontaneous. Consequently, during loose parts play it is not uncommon to observe a variety of play types, most notably locomotor, mastery, symbolic, imaginative and creative/object play(6).

Since the spring of 2018, EAS has offered professional learning centring around loose parts play. Typically, loose parts play is an option to further diversify the recess experience for students, providing an additional outdoor zone with materials for unstructured, free play. In a few school settings loose parts play has also been used as an approach to support students’ readiness to learn and as a strategy to target social and emotional learning. Loose parts play complements physical literacy development in students, targeting the physical, cognitive and affective domains of experience.

We did experience challenges around launching loose parts play programs in schools, and found a myriad of solutions:

  • Staff buy-in. Telling school staff you’re going to let students run wild with a bunch of recycling is understandably going to raise concerns. To alleviate staff uncertainty, we provided multiple and varied professional learning opportunities, an initial, general intro to loose parts with follow up sessions, and hosted ‘teaser’ loose parts play sessions, where a small group of students experienced it for teachers to observe — dipping their toes in, shall we say.
  • Timeline to implement. The idea of a brand new program with lots of (literal) moving parts is overwhelming for even the least busy of us, let alone teachers! Thankfully, there’s no such thing as a set timeline for loose parts play. We worked with schools over the course of a full year and found implementation methods that worked for each unique context - some hosted the program every day of the week, while others started with one day a week and introduced the students in small doses.
  • Whose responsibility is it? Guided by the four pillars of the Comprehensive School Health (CSH) framework, responsibility is shared through engagement with whole staff, parents/families, caregivers and community partners. Multiple learning opportunities helped remove the barriers of perception, changing the mindset from “can we do this?” to “this is doable.” We identified different ways staff can contribute, such as networking to collect parts, helping to supervise play, set up and clean up, and incorporating loose parts into classroom learning.
  • Storage. The first step to finding storage is exploring your on-site options! Unused classrooms or existing outdoor sheds work well, and provide encouragement to clean out those spaces. Portable storage on wheels is a big help. This can include large Christmas tree bags, hockey bags, and curbside waste and recycling bins, to name a few. When space didn’t yet exist, we worked with school councils to fundraise or allocate funds to purchase outdoor storage, or partnered with school division facilities teams or municipalities to determine what type of storage is permissible and where it could be placed.
  • Family/caregiver buy-in. Families want to give their children the best they can, so the idea of giving them cardboard boxes to play with can be unsettling. We worked with school councils to provide rationale and attended school functions to explain and show what loose parts play is really all about.
  • Safety and liability. Some suggestions to address safety concerns would be, first and foremost, to create space for intentional policy discussion and planning. Create play guidelines or expectations; a process for accepting and auditing donated parts; learn about risk-benefit assessment and intervention models; and more.

Funded By