The Big Picture

Te Puna Taiao is a flexible and non-prescriptive initiative that advocates for school outdoor spaces to transform from being made up of largely concrete and grass fields with mostly plastic playground equipment fixed permanently in place to be places that include a range of natural play spaces, trees, hillocks and gardens.  

Gardens could include productive gardens where children could learn how to grow, harvest and prepare healthy kai. The grounds should include quiet spaces where smaller groups of children or individuals can play and learn without feeling isolated or anxious. They should provide opportunities to manipulate and learn from natural materials such as water.  

The grounds should also provide opportunities for riskier play to allow children the chance to test and understand their personal limits and to be physically active, building their resilience and motor skills. ‘Loose parts’, a concept borrowed from ECCE, should be provided such as tyres, driftwood, planks and hoses, to encourage collaborative and creative play and help children to build problem-solving and social skills.  

The grounds should also be designed with clear references and connections the school’s rohe, referencing ecosystems including for example, bush, mountains, wetlands, rivers and beaches. As well as key landmarks within a region. They should include references to aspects of Te Ao Māori such as traditional use plant species, Māori carvings, art and iconography. Priority in this space is connection to mana whenua first and foremost, with the ability for tamariki to then connect in their own individual whakapapa.

It is important to emphasise that we do not want to ‘throw out the baby with the bathwater’. We want to add new and different spaces to school grounds, while still providing opportunities for traditional sports and games.



The Detail: 10 Key Design Elements

Our kaupapa advocates for schools to include ten design elements in their outdoor spaces, each carefully selected on the basis of sound evidence, to give children the opportunities we know kids need, and which many do not currently experience.

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1. Natural Materials

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2. Rohe References

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3. Te Ao

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4. Connected Spaces

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5. Loose

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6. Physical

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7. Performance


8. Gardens

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9. Sensory

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10. Art & Sculpture