New Outdoor Learning Environment Open for St John’s Primary School

When St John’s School in Scarborough approached us to overhaul their early childhood grounds and design and construct a new outdoor learning environment for their students, we were more than pleased to help with the project.

PLAN E Director Adam Lange has a close connection with the school with 3 of his 4 children currently enrolled at St John’s, with the youngest soon to join.

“Plan E were thrilled to be given the opportunity to be part of the redevelopment of the St John’s ECE play area. Through extensive collaboration with the school including the principal Mary Bizzaca, teachers, and board members we were able to design and administer the construction of a play space that now fully utilises the available area, and provides numerous opportunities for play and outdoor learning,” said Mr Lange.

The previous site had a lot of unusable levels and areas that ECE practitioners label as ‘static play’ – elements that lack inspiration and curtail imagination. The levels that previously caused ‘wasted space’ have now been transformed into climbing and exploration areas.

After a 2 year consultation and creation process the outdoor play area was officially opened and both staff and students couldn’t be happier with the transformation.

“What an incredible gift to our young children to have this outdoor play experience ahead of them,” said Principal Mary Bizzaca.

“I want to make special mention of the Landscape Architect for the project, Adam Lange, who took the thoughts, needs and definite ‘don’t wants’ on board during the initial steps of consulting with Early Educators. He listened intently and also shared his wisdom and much personal time with Board members and then the Working Party of Parent Reps from the P&F and School Board, and ECE Teachers,” concluded Principal Bizzaca.

At PLAN E we have built a reputation for creating outdoor learning environments that instill confidence in children and a sense of independence through creative play, our work at the Rio Tinto Naturescape being testament to that.

“Whenever we embark on a project such as this we like to strike a good balance between exposing children to character building risk, while still creating safe and stimulating spaces to learn and play,” said Mr Lange.

“We had seen some of the wonderful spaces that PLAN E has designed, with numerous nature-based parks around Perth,” said Principal Bizzaca. It was clear they have a thorough understanding of the importance of play spaces that provide a good variety, and balance, of challenging natural elements.”

The most challenging aspects of the process actually led to the best outcomes. Significant level differences and services provided opportunities for rock mounding, bridges and caves, and created a vast variety in experiences for the children. The use of materials including timber, rock, mulch, water, sand and plants brought the natural environment into the space.

For Plan E, it has been a pleasure seeing the children utilise the play space to its full potential, defying conventional uses of elements and making the space their own. It is reflective of the importance that both St John’s and Plan E places on exploration and outdoor play as part of education.  We have no doubt that this area will provoke and encourage play today, and for many years to come.

Whilst these grounds form part of the outdoor learning environment for Kindy students and Pre-Primary students the school were so impressed with the outcome that they will be scheduling time for older students to also make use of the space.