Explain to children that they will work in groups to formulate plans for the improvement of their local park (or a nearby park that you have identified). To do this they will need to visit it to assess its current facilities and devise ways of consulting with the local community and visitors to the park about what they would like to see happen.
Before your visit children could find out:
- When the park was created?
- Who created the park?
- What was there before?
- Who paid for the park?
- Who owns the park?
- Who looks after the park now?
- Who pays for the park's upkeep?
- How the park is protected?
Children could obtain some of this information from their local councillor or parks and gardens manager if they were able to come into school.
Surveying the park
Visit the park to survey what is in it and what it currently offers different people. Groups of children could carry out separate surveys and present their findings to the rest of the class on their return to school, perhaps using ICT or as a wall display. Use or adapt the following activity sheets which are available as a .pdf or word document.
Provide each group with a plan or an aerial view of the park to follow.
Activity sheet – What is the park like?
Use this to help children describe the appearance and overall plan of the park and to determine what makes the park special.
Activity sheet – What is in the park?
Use this to help children find out about the range of features and facilities within the park, their location and function.
Activity sheet – What people do in the park?
Use this to help children understand how the park and its facilities are used by different groups of people.
Activity sheet – What is the condition of the park?
Use this to help children assess the condition of the park’s areas and features. They record any damage and suggest what has caused it, whether deliberate or accidental, as a result of wear and tear, corrosion or effects of weather.
Activity sheet – How easy is it for people to get around the park?
Use this to help children find out how easy it is for people in wheelchairs, on bicycles or with prams get around the park and people with mobility or sight problems use the park’s features.
Activity sheet – How safe is the park for everyone?
Use this to assess health and safety issues around the park, identifying hazards for different groups of people, including those at different times of the year or in different weather conditions.
On your return to school talk with children about:
- What they liked in the park?
- What they did not like?
- What they would like to change?
- What other people might want to change?
- Who uses the park now?
- Who else nearby could use the park?
- Which things are used all year round?
- Which things are only used at certain times of the year? Why?
Condition of the park
Discuss the overall condition of the park and the features and facilities within it. Use photographs taken during your visit. Explore what might have caused any decline and damage.
- Was it caused by lack of funding and poor maintenance, anti-social behaviour, wear and tear or the effects of weather conditions?
- What consequences of criminal action did children encounter in their visit to the park?
- Why are some features and facilities no longer used?
Discuss to what extent changes in leisure and social habits have contributed towards disuse, neglect and decay.
Looking at other parks
Compare the park with others by downloading aerial photographs and plans of public parks . What do other parks offer? Explore how they are laid out and what is in them. How are areas within a park different? Look at where features are located and their proximity to one another. Trails, signs and information panels will also help children make comparisons with other parks.