An Inspiring Playground Design For Child-Led Learning and Play
It was time for a change at St Bonaventure's Catholic Primary School in Bishopston, Bristol! Their old Preschool and Foundation Stage outdoor area was becoming tired and uninspiring, and needed bringing back to life.
We were really excited to be involved in this project and our design team had some brilliant ideas for helping the Bristol primary school to completely refresh and revamp the outdoor space.
The Beginning Of A Stunning Playground Transformation...
We began with the essential removals - digging out and disposing of all the old surfacing, perished timber edging and equipment that was no longer fit for purpose - before preparing the ground for the new installations.
All-weather Playground Surfacing was a key feature of this project. The school needed a flexible and versatile space that would be suitable for outdoor play and learning for children of all abilities, all throughout the year.
Having a free, open, central space within the outdoor area to allow for class activities such as loose part play, using a parachute and riding on bikes and trikes was a priority for St Bonaventure’s.
Vibrant Zones For Different Types Of Play
We laid a bespoke Wetpour Surfacing Design, using a combination of our different coloured all-weather surfaces to help identify different learning zones within the space.
Wetpour is an ideal impact-absorbing surface for riding bikes and trikes and running around on. It will make it much easier for staff to set up and rotate ever-changing, loose-part play activities.
This, combined with a large section of our free-draining Playturf Artificial Grass, has provided contrasting surface textures for the children to explore as they journey around the playground.
Colour choices were an important part of the resurfacing too. We needed to consider the impact of messy play items, maintenance and drainage, as well as aesthetics, to create a natural-looking and versatile learning space.
Undercover Outdoor Learning and Play
Beneath the existing canopy, we used our special messy play surfacing blend, which provides a mottled, natural sand appearance. It disguises any mess that inevitably finds its way onto the surface through enthusiastic tuff spot play, art and so on, and it’s easy to maintain.
Stepping out from the canopy, a large expanse of light and dark green Wetpour before Artificial Grass flows seamlessly into the main body of the outdoor space. This change in surface colour forms a useful visual boundary to help the children understand where they can enjoy specific activities at any given time.
We added in numbered parking bays to the Wetpour area for real-world play and so that the children can learn to store bikes and trikes in a set place when they are not being used.
Flexible Resources For Creative Mark Making
A selection of our Interactive Fence Panels on Wheels, along with a Giant Mirror, Chalkboard, Whiteboard and Paint Panel on Posts, were chosen by St Bonaventure’s to help break up the area into zones as required. They’re fantastic, flexible resources in themselves that encourage creativity through mark-making, art-based activities and role play.
St Bonaventure’s are currently using theirs to zone-off a beautiful, creative educational space under the canopy. It’s set around their brand-new Self-Selecting Store which safely houses all the pre-school equipment and allows the children to pick and choose to suit their play.
Role Play and Den Building can now be enjoyed with the addition of a Giant Playhouse with Walls, Chalkboard and Benches.
This is another versatile and open-ended area supporting a range of learning opportunities and providing great scope for building teamwork and communication skills.
Active Play Opportunities For Early Physical Literacy
Located at the far edge of the playground, away from the quieter and more creative play zones, and to minimise disruption to the classrooms, we’ve built an exciting new Active Play Zone.
To offer new physical challenges that will encourage upper body and grip strength development and improve balance and coordination was one of the key priorities identified by St Bonaventure’s.
They selected our Harter Fell Climber and Climb Through Tunnel Hill to provide the full range of physical opportunities the children need to achieve early physical literacy.
The children absolutely love climbing around in this area, which provides the teachers with great opportunities for observing early learning goals being achieved without too much prompting or intervention.
Messy Play Area For STEAM Learning
Messy play has been given a new lease of life at St Bonaventure’s with a brand-new Messy Play Zone.
The Mud Kitchens have been relocated and the children now enjoy the added benefit of an incredible, all encompassing, Water Wall with Water Play Package.
They are learning to manipulate the transparent chutes to encourage the water to travel faster or slower down the wall, and at different angles from the wall into the messy play space.
This facility really encourages higher level thinking and problem-solving within the children. There’s a large, moveable water tray which can be used to extend these STEAM learning activities - the handy shelf on the side makes filling vessels with water much easier.
It’s a high-energy investigation space that has completely transformed the way the children at St Bonaventure’s can enjoy their time outdoors - there’s no stopping them now!
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