Standards for public agencies

2020 Edition

Out-of-School Time Services (PA-OST) 17: Outdoor Environment and Materials

The outdoor environment and materials meet the needs of children and youth and support program goals.
2020 Edition




Children and youth who participate in Out-of-School Time programs gain the personal, social, emotional, and educational assets needed to support healthy development, increase well-being, and facilitate a successful transition through childhood and adolescence, and into adulthood.
Note: Agencies that do not have their own outdoor space may demonstrate that they access other outdoor spaces (e.g., neighborhood parks or school playgrounds) to implement these standards. If there is no access to an outdoor space, or if the activities offered do not require outdoor space, the agency should request an NA.
Full Implementation, Outstanding Performance
A rating of (1) indicates that the agency's practices fully meet the standard and reflect a high level of capacity.  
  • All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, with rare or no exceptions: exceptions do not impact service quality or agency performance. 
Substantial Implementation, Good Performance
A rating of (2) indicates that an agency's infrastructure and practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement.
  • The majority of the standards requirements have been met and the basic framework required by the standard has been implemented. 
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality or agency performance.

Partial Implementation, Concerning Performance
A rating of (3) indicates that the agency's observed infrastructure and/or practices require significant improvement.  

  • The agency has not implemented the basic framework of the standard but instead has in place only part of this framework.  
  • Omissions or exceptions to the practices outlined in the standard occur regularly, or practices are implemented in a cursory or haphazard manner.  
  • Service quality or agency functioning may be compromised.  
  • Capacity is at a basic level.
Unsatisfactory Implementation or Performance
A rating of (4) indicates that implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all.  
  • The agency’s observed service delivery infrastructure and practices are weak or non-existent; or show signs of neglect, stagnation, or deterioration.
Self-Study EvidenceOn-Site EvidenceOn-Site Activities
No Self-Study Evidence
No On-Site Evidence
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Children, youth, and families
  • Observe outdoor facility and materials

PA-OST 17.01

The outdoor space is large enough to accommodate the number of children and youth served, and suitable for the type of activities offered.


If the outdoor space is small, the time children and youth spend outdoors should be staggered so that they are not crowded during outdoor activities.
Examples: The characteristics of the outdoor space may vary based on the nature of the program and the type of activities offered. For example, an agency offering basketball should have access to a basketball court, an agency offering tennis should have access to a tennis court, and an agency offering walking or running groups should have access to sufficient space for children to engage in walking or running. Agencies that serve younger children and offer a variety of activity options will ideally provide access to an open area where children can run, jump, and play; a large field area for structured sports activities such as kickball; a hard surface for basketball, rollerblading, and bike riding; and a protected area for quiet play and socializing.

PA-OST 17.02

Supplies and equipment for outdoor activities are: 
  1. suited to the activities offered and the goals of the program;
  2. in good condition;
  3. sufficient for the number of children and youth in the program; and
  4. appropriate to the ages and developmental levels of program participants, including for children and youth with differing levels of skill and ability.


When children are required to share supplies and equipment there should be a system in place to minimize wait time and facilitate orderly access for all.

PA-OST 17.03

There is adequate and convenient storage space for outdoor supplies and equipment.
Examples: An agency can demonstrate implementation of this standard by, for example: ensuring children and youth can access outdoor supplies and equipment on their own, and with ease; storing supplies and equipment close to the activity space, or moving them near the activity space during program time; and making sure that personnel rarely have to carry heavy equipment or large quantities of supplies long distances (or providing portable equipment on wheels when it is necessary to do so).

PA-OST 17.04

Permanent playground equipment is suitable for the ages, sizes, and abilities of children and youth.
NA The agency does not use permanent playground equipment.