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Blog posted on 11th December 2018 by Adam Press
We transformed the York school’s outdoor learning space for Early Years pupils into an interactive garden and sensory play area.
Designing the interactive garden and sensory outdoor play space
When devising their ultimate wish list for an educational and sensory outdoor play for their Early Years pupils, Bootham Junior School looked beyond the classroom.
This bespoke thinking made the outdoor play space a perfect project for Playscheme, combining our expertise in play areas for schools and bespoke work for attractions across the UK! We turned the school’s wish list ideas into an interactive bespoke garden design to encourage pupils to learn by using their senses of sight, hearing, touch and smell.
With only a few minor tweaks made to the original design in order to perfectly match the school’s needs, the project was approved and ordered in record time. Needless to say, we were delighted!
What’s in the outdoor learning and play area?
Our bespoke garden design featured loads of different sensory elements.
The sensory water feature
A landscaped sensory water feature runs throughout the garden. There’s cascading water, landscaped rock pools, and sluice gates at the entrance to each pool. The design encourages children to fill up the pools before opening the sluice gate and releasing the water downstream.
The pools stimulate the senses of sight, hearing and touch, and can be used for numerous activities, such as paddling in summer, team building and social interaction. Children can even conduct their own educational experiments by creating dams, drawing reflections, or calculating how quickly the water is released.
A bowed timber bridge passes over the water feature for those who don’t want to get their feet wet!
Textured footpath and raised planters
A circular footpath surrounds the play area and uses different shapes and stones to create multiple textures for the children to see and touch.
The outdoor space also includes raised planters, designed in a large U-shape to hug the sensory footpath and frame the bridge. The planters are at staggered heights, so children of all ages can smell, touch and plant new flowers. There’s seating too, so children can take time to reflect, listen to the water, and read.
Other features of the outdoor play space include artificial grass in two different colours to add brightness and texture (and make maintenance easy!), and an arbour trellis entrance archway. There’s also a sail shade in the centre of a stone circle, which can be easily put up and taken down again when the weather changes. The shade’s extended posts are also great for displaying children’s work or hanging bunting.
The future-proofed playhouse
And that’s not all! A playhouse, complete with performance stage, sits next to the outdoor garden. With large role-play windows and a backdrop chalkboard, plus loads of low-level storage and worktops, the space can be imagined as anything from a country cottage to a hairdressers’ or a grocers.
Including this type of open-ended play in schools is brilliant for developing children’s imagination, creative and social development. We deliberately designed the playhouse to be as flexible and future-proof as possible, so it can provide endless fun for years to come!
Installing the sensory play area
The playhouse and planters were manufactured at our Elvington site. As soon as October half-term was here, we transported them to the school, and made the rest of the outdoor sensory garden a reality.
Bootham Junior School formally opened the new Early Years outdoor learning and play area on 23rd November, and we understand it’s already a hit with all the children and parents too!
We'd love to help improve the outdoor learning and play space at your school. Call us on 01904 607677 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a no obligation consultation.