Reception Class – Under Sea Cave

Big , wet and messy! Just what they all really enjoy! As part of their “under the sea” theme we made a big dark den, and painted the inside black. Some children just had to get the paint in their hair, and some parents were not amused, although the learning points were well explained! The children thoroughly enjoyed the construction, planning which big bits of cardboard should be used, using duct tape to fix them, waterproofing it with a shower curtain, painting the inside and outside, then making “seaweed” around the entrance as a finishing touch. It has survived several week of rain and still looks good!

The Underwater Cave
Emerging through the seaweed
Now that’s what I call messy

A planted roof for a bird table

A relatively simple adaptation to a bird table to make an upstand can give you the opportunity to plant the roof. You need a water retaining mat and an ‘off cut’ of Sedum roof ‘turf’… (if you can get it! ) otherwise you can just plant the Sedum yourself! Children can help you do this, measuring the timber edges, learning to use a saw, screwdriver etc. as well as doing the planting. Happy birds.

Fulham – Early Years outdoors

“The new design has made a significant impact on the quality of activity in both zones. The quieter activities are not disrupted now by bikes and fast play. The children are more engrossed in group work without disturbance.”

Engaging Children In Design – Loose Parts used in school grounds design projects

“Felicity really helped us all to understand the practical implications of the decisions we were making through a hands-on and engaging process.” – Deputy Head

Loose parts can be used very effectively to engage children and staff in school grounds design projects, both as a problem-solving tool and as a way to find out the key needs of the children.

Children in playground Children in a small group
Using loose parts to set up experimental zones in large-scale design projects.

In one major re-design project at a primary school, loose parts were used for an ‘experimental playground’ day where all the children and staff were involved in a complete re-imagining of play and playtimes during morning break and lunchtime. The children were asked to use any of the resources to play. A wide range of non-specific loose parts were used (such as boxes, tubes, mobile frames, chairs, stage blocks, rugs, carpet tiles, tyres etc) as well as fabrics, props, books, games mats etc…Sufficient for the whole school at lunch break!

Carpet tube archway
Loose parts used as construction resources to ‘problem solve” and design small-scale interventions. Here, carpet tubes were used to make a threshold archway to define the entrance to a quieter playground zone.

No other prompts were given, but careful observation and conversations with the children aimed to find out what sort of places they needed in this hitherto barren featureless tarmac play space. Territoriality was frequently observed, and the creation of quiet chat spots, or group gathering places (with associated imaginative play) along with physical challenges etc. From this and further engagement with children and staff the KPIs for the re-design were established, (within which regular loose parts play could also be provided of course) At a later date the principle zones of the design itself were also mapped out for a week (see photos) so the school could get a feel for the spaces created before committing to major changes.

Planning markers on the ground
Using PE cones and hazard tape used to plan, imagine, discuss and make decisions about paths and new features in a woodland garden.

Grils planning new play structure
Planning a new play structure, how much space will it take up? How many children can play on it? Lots to think about, measure and discuss…

In smaller projects loose parts are also frequently used as ‘problem solving’ resources, where children experiment with ideas, and test solutions to issues they have identified in their playgrounds. For example, in one school a quiet area was anything but quiet! Children used it as a ‘had’ home base disrupting any chat or other social play that was going on there. Experimenting with loose parts led the children to the solution of creating some boundaries to the place, and a variety of ways to access the space that slowed children down and were also fun, (such as a stile). This is just one example of many.

Yr 5 water workshop Yr 5 water workshopThe problem here was water flooding into the school building, so the task was to experiment with ideas for how to prevent this. Much wet fun was had by all, lots of cooperation and team working took place, a bit of science was learned too! Result! Wet one side and dry on the other (almost)

Testimonials

To develop your outdoor learning and school grounds get in touch
with Felicity on 07968 771582 or email info@landscapesnaturally.co.uk

Liss – Den building, fund raising and and parental engagement

“Felicity combines all the creative skills and innovation of a landscape architect with a really deep and instinctive understanding of how children interact physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually with the natural world.”

What went well

I personally appreciated the time and attention which Felicity invested at the start in observing and talking to the children in order to understand the patterns of their play and their ideas for the outdoor classroom project.

She was very quick to develop an intuitive feel for the values and learning culture of our school and to translate our vision for outdoor learning into something tangible and achievable within a limited budget.

  

Felicity shared photographs and sketches from other school outdoor learning projects in order to help us discard the things we didn’t want and to identify our “must haves”. Through this process, we were able to create our own personalised “mood board” from which she helped us to achieve something of real originality and lasting value Active pupil involvement was central to the whole project – not just in the planning and designing but also in the construction Felicity quickly achieved a genuine sense of community engagement by involving parents and all members of staff, including Support staff, Lunchtime Assistants and the Site Manager. She worked inclusively with everyone and her practical, well organised approach facilitated positive outcomes for all.

Felicity managed the whole process of tendering to architects and contractors on our behalf and provided us with helpful guidance and unbiased advice throughout. She was also instrumental in bidding for and securing Lottery funding for the project.

 

I particularly valued Felicity’s educational expertise and the importance she placed on enhancing the quality of young children’s learning experiences in the outdoors in order to impact upon their overall sense of well-being and enjoyment

Felicity maintained an active interest and involvement in the project throughout and she was always quick to respond to any questions or concerns. When snags arose with the contractors, Felicity was proactive in helping us to resolve them.

I have thought long and hard about the “even better if…” but I can’t think of anything which could have been improved in the context of the remit we gave you. With regard to how I would describe your role to another Headteacher – the thing I would want to emphasise is that you combine all the creative skills and innovation of a landscape architect with a really deep and instinctive understanding of how children interact physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually with the natural world. The best teachers are able to see the world through a child’s eyes – and this was the reason I wanted you to lead our outdoor classroom project.

 

Den Building Zone – The impact of the project

Our Den-building “village” was completed at the end of September 2014 and we held a series of den-building workshops for children and their parents early in November, which included construction skills, team-work and risk management. Since then the “village” has been in regular use by children in all Year groups at playtimes and as part of their daily curriculum and it has already impacted positively on many different aspects of our school life:

  • Positive, supportive relationships between older and younger children based on trust, mutual respect and shared enjoyment
  • Improved standards of behaviour at playtimes, particularly among those children with social and behavioural needs
  • Improved quality of play and social interaction at lunchtimes
  • Increased levels of motivation, independence and resilience amongst pupils of all ages
  • Increased levels of focus and engagement among boys
  • Raised levels of self-esteem and self-confidence for vulnerable groups
  • Higher percentage of children regularly engaged in gross motor activity
  • Enhanced outdoor learning opportunities linked to Science and Technology curriculum
  • “Hard to reach” parents taking a more active role in school life
  • Higher percentage of fathers volunteering in school
  • Positive feedback from prospective parents and visitors to the school

Teresa Offer.
Head
Liss Infants School

To develop your outdoor learning and school grounds get in touch
with Felicity on 07968 771582 or email info@landscapesnaturally.co.uk

No pond… no problem!

“This was fun – the water looked like wobbly jelly.” – Year 4

Background

Water has a fascination for most people, and is a great hands-on learning resource, but not every school, wants, or has the resources, to manage a pond all year round.

 

Process

Landscapes Naturally can run spring/summer workshops in your school bringing a natural water and wildlife environment to your grounds for a few days for your children to explore. The costs range form a one day workshop (a few hundred pounds) to a longer series of supported workshops over several days or a week so all children can take advantage of the temporary installation.

Wildlife investigation, identification, classification, solar power fountains, gravity fountains, rainbows, reflection, DT (shadufs and water screws etc.) or large scale temporary water feature e.g for testing sails as part of air resistance studies… whatever your thoughts we can tailor the workshop to meet your specific curriculum requirements and AT1. From large to small scale ponds we have the resources to support your children’s learning.

Outcomes

Children and staff find water projects irresistible. The project can also be used to experiment with the idea of a permanent wild life pond or water feature for longer term implementation, which Landscapes Naturally can also help you design and deliver.

“I found some water snails.” – Yr5

To develop your outdoor learning and school grounds get in touch
with Felicity on 07968 771582 or email info@landscapesnaturally.co.uk

Shelters – Where, what type, how big, how do we want to use them?

“Felicity worked very effectively with the children and staff to develop a solution that we are now enjoying using.” – Playworker

Background

Many schools find that they need to make physical changes to their grounds, frequently adding shelters. After a while some schools find that the chosen structure is not always appropriate or in the right place.

 

Process

Landscapes Naturally has helped several schools and play settings to explore options before making investments in new structures in the grounds. This helps to ensure a cost effective use of limited funds.

A range of resources are used to discuss and try out options using resources provided by Landscapes Naturally and from the school. The results are documented and the best solutions identified. (Landscapes Naturally can also help you to find suppliers or contractors to implement the scheme)

Outcomes

Design and location decisions made with skilled site analysis and on-site experimentation tend to lead to cost effective results. Children work together, solve problems, practice dexterity and take price in working with professionals to help to make these decisions.

To develop your outdoor learning and school grounds get in touch
with Felicity on 07968 771582 or email info@landscapesnaturally.co.uk