An Outdoor Learning Environment that Promotes Quiet Reflection
We’ve installed a beautiful, welcoming Memorial Garden at Broad Square Community Primary School in Liverpool, in loving memory of former pupil Rhys Jones.
Our Playground Consultant, Ian Wood, met virtually with Headteacher Vicky Corbett, to discuss the school’s wishes for this special space. Vicky explained how the health and wellbeing of the children at Broad Square is of utmost importance to the school.
The Aims of This Playground Memorial Project
They wanted to provide the children with a calm, creative space that they could all enjoy together, and that would naturally help to support their good health and well being. This area would be a wonderful Memorial Garden for Rhys Jones - a friendly and popular boy who loved football.
Before he joined us at Pentagon, Ian worked with young people himself, both as an EYFS teacher and as a sports coach in primary schools.
His drive “to both support and challenge children in all aspects of the curriculum, to become resilient and independent, and to overcome their fears to achieve their maximum potential in life,” is clear to see.
Ian worked closely with the school to design a Memorial Garden that would provide a welcoming and engaging teaching and learning space, where all pupils would be able to thrive and enjoy playing, learning and growing together in the outdoors.
The area to be redeveloped was located to the edge of the main playground, away from the busier, more active areas.
A Playground Design for Quiet Reflection
Following their discussions, Ian was ready to design a Memorial Garden layout featuring a range of products that together create a quiet and reflective outdoor learning environment.
Here, the children can enjoy time for reading and writing, with plenty of Seating Areas, shelter and options for gardening and role play activities, all in an environment that promotes wonderful, imaginative thinking.
Before the Memorial Garden could take shape, we removed and disposed of all the existing play equipment and surfacing that was no longer fit for purpose, then we repaired the groundworks ready for the new installations.
Essential Playground Surfacing and Fencing
The Memorial Garden is surrounded by low timber fencing, with a bespoke timber ‘Welcome’ sign over the entrance which clearly shows the children that they are entering a different part of the playground - a very special place where everyone is welcome to enter and enjoy the surroundings together.
It was important that the Memorial Garden would always be somewhere to enjoy all year round, regardless of the weather - and laying the best Playground Surfacing was an essential part of ensuring this could happen.
We laid our all-weather Playturf Artificial Grass to most of the garden. It’s a beautiful, natural-looking tactile surface, that’s self-draining and soft to the touch - the children can even lie down on it without getting dirty! Into this we incorporated some special Saferturf features.
We imprinted Broad Square Primary’s seven Key Values (Excellence, Responsibility, Respect, Community, Enjoyment, Compassion and Perseverance) in red Saferturf with white letters, so that they are clearly visible for children to read and remember. Grey, navy and yellow stepping stones to hop across add an element of fun.
At the centre of the Memorial Garden is a newly planted tree feature that has the space to grow over the years, in lasting memory of Rhys.
We surrounded the tree with timber bench seating - a lovely space to sit and chat or to quietly read a book.
It sits on our blue Saferturf, which we used in contrast to the artificial grass to make it look as if it’s floating on a lake, with a winding river pathway for the children to follow leading in from the entrance.
Shelter, Shade and Role Play Games
We built a fabulous sustainably-sourced timber 3.5m Hexagonal Gazebo with benches at the edge of the garden, looking out - it’s a great sheltered space in which children can sit and enjoy the garden, and it can be put to good use for group outdoor learning activities, reading, group discussions as part of PHSE curriculum, and additional breakout space for learning at Broad Square.
We fixed a Giant Whiteboard to the fence behind the gazebo - an open mark-making space for freeflow expression.
A Giant Playhouse with Walls & Chalkboard on the other side of the garden has threading holes along the front for weaving materials and den building. The children can enjoy theming and personalising this space for role play.
There’s a cosy Wigwam where the children can enjoy playing hide and seek and building a reading den to snuggle inside.
We added a Self-Selecting Store - somewhere handy for the children to keep their gardening tools, chalk and other art resources. It’s good for them to access themselves, choose what they want to use, and enjoy the experience and responsibility of learning to manage and care for the space themselves.
Feast the Senses with Natural Play Equipment
We placed a set of Picnic Tables behind Trellis Screens to break up the space and create a cosy corner for enjoying snacks and outdoor packed lunches.
This area can be used as somewhere to sit and socialise with friends at break times, and as an ever-useful space for specific outdoor learning activities. A Giant Whiteboard on Posts for teaching makes it ideal for small group work, and a calm space that can be used for interventions.
Planter Benches installed around the edges of the garden are there for the children to plant and care for their choice of plants, flowers, herbs, fruit and vegetables, or climbing plants to train onto the fencing.
They will love making this a sensory garden with seasonal interest. Gardening is a brilliant educational activity that serves many purposes. Its calming and therapeutic nature is extremely beneficial for mental health and wellbeing, and it’s a good hand-on way to learn a number of science topics around life cycles, eco systems and so on.
Additional Perch Benches around the edges means there is plenty of room all around the garden for children to sit together.
An Easel Table with chalkboard was the perfect choice for outdoor art sessions. The children can interact and leave messages for each other here, as part of the feeling of kindness and togetherness that this garden brings. We saw that one child had written “Love, Laugh, Learn” and another “Don’t Give Up!” - a great set of mottos and we loved this!
A Special Memorial Bench
We made a special wooden bench for the children and school families to sit and enjoy the garden and remember Rhys - ‘Rhys’ Bench’ features blue and white backing and is engraved with Everton F.C. logos as he loved playing football and was a dedicated Everton supporter.
When Broad Square Primary officially opened the Memorial Garden, Mrs Corbett explained to the children that they had chosen the red and blue surfacing feature theme throughout the garden to show that it’s a space for everyone - that it’s about everyone coming together - and she wanted the children to understand and know that even though they may all believe in different things and support different things and have different ideas, they all belong and they’re all very much a team living and working together in harmony at Broad Square Primary.
Are you thinking about new playground and outdoor learning options for your school? We can help you. You can find out more about our work with schools and nurseries, and view our full range of outdoor learning, play and sports products Here.
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