Glen Bourke's work helping students learn and play at Orange East

During the holidays, many teachers have a few days off and can come in to take care of work minus the time pressure of timetables or the noise of children playing. 

Orange East Public School principal Glen Bourke was working during the holidays, but he decided to eschew the desk and the emails and get his hands dirty. 

Mr Bourke has created some “graffiti” of an educational kind, stencilling a one-to-100 grid on the asphalt of the school as well as a clock and some extra squares. 

“It’s about the playground needing a bit of a spruce up to be more appealing to kids, but there’s also a lot of research around teaching to kids and incidental learning,” Mr Bourke said.

“Getting numbers and alphabet letters and things like that around the school for kids to interact with at breaktime is good for outdoor learning so the classes are coming out and learning with it.”

While teachers are taking classes out to use physical activity to teach students about maths – showing how addition and multiplication works is often easier for children to see visually than on a whiteboard – the way students play at recess and lunch is also set to change. 

Mr Bourke wants to see students learning during recess and lunch, but learning while they play. 

“I’ve got tubs of blocks and dinosaurs and cars that we’re going to put out in the playground and I don’t care if I lose them, the idea is kids coming out and playing with them,” he said. 

“Kids often need to move their bodies to learn.” 

The painting exercise took Mr Bourke a full day of leaning down, placing stencils, spray painting and picking it back up for all 191 numbers on the board, but he’s not protective about his work.

That’s despite the toll it took on him, laughing that he needed to get a massage after finishing, but he won’t be deterred – there’s more work to be done to cover the old asphalt. 

“I want it worn out, nothing would make me happier,” he said. 

“We’re doing more counting tracks, multiplication tracks, a keyboard with some of the letters, chess board so I’m going to tattoo the whole playground, it’s what schools should look like.

“The surface is looking a bit tired but until it can get fixed I’ll cover it in paint.”