Manorfield Primary School in Tower Hamlets has won £5000 from Canary Wharf Group to improve their grounds as the inaugural winner of The Playground Project run by the Landscape Institute in collaboration with CWG. A group of seven primary schools in Tower Hamlets entered the competition and two schools, Halley Primary School and Lansbury Lawrence Primary School, were also highly commended for their projects.
The Playground Project, brought a professional landscape architect into Manorfield Primary school to work alongside key stage two pupils to help them re-design an aspect of their grounds. The school’s winning design was for a new area that will become an outdoor classroom for whole class/small group teaching. Pupils will also be able to use a living wall as part of the new science curriculum. Pupils’ ideas were central to the final design and they measured the space and drew out their ideas onto bird’s eye view plans with the help of Neil Hutchins, a Landscape Institute’s Ambassador for Landscape from Atkins. Working as a team, the students discussed each strong idea and drawings to come up with the final design.
Outdoor environments are a great learning resource for children and engaging them with the design process is a fantastic way to create something that the children will be proud of, creating a lasting legacy.
Improving school grounds is essential for promoting healthy lifestyles, inspiring imaginations and encouraging problem solving skills. Previous schemes have found that school ground improvements lead to the children playing and learning outside more, providing a lasting impact on teaching practices and attitudes to learning.
Poppy Smith, Education Development Officer at the Landscape Institute and chair of the judging panel said:
‘The pupils worked collaboratively to create a simple yet effective design to enhance their school, claiming back an uninspiring and underwhelming space. Once completed it will provide a valuable learning resource for the children. The pupils can now appreciate this area as a ‘space’ in which they can start their lunch break in a calm and reflective mood. We also loved how the project has stimulated the school to consult students further on future developments. ‘
Paul Jackson, Interim Headteacher of Manorfield said:
‘We are all very excited at Manorfield with the news of our award. This will make a tremendous difference to the existing space. We want to create the very best learning environment for the children at Manorfield and it is great that the children’s own ideas have been integral to our application for this project. The award is the springboard that will support us in driving forwards the improvements we are looking to make at Manorfield. I can’t wait to see the plans turn into reality.’
Ailsa Lawson, Year 4 Wellington Class Teacher at Manorfield said:
‘This project had a really positive effect on the class as a whole, the children were able learn a new set of skills including analysing and evaluating the positives and negatives of an outdoor space and learning and using the architectural symbols to create their own plan. The landscape architect who worked with us had a positive relationship with the children and they couldn’t wait for him to return on Wednesday afternoons.’
John Mayson, Artist in Residence and Forest School Leader said:
‘I think that collaboration produces the most successful learning in schools. This project enabled a collaboration between pupils, teachers, an artist and an architect to produce a design that had pupil voice at its heart. We are all over the moon that we have won this award and that we will soon be able to see our vision turned into a reality.’
Neil Hutchins, landscape architect from Atkins said:
‘One of the main reasons that I enrolled onto the LI’s Playground Project was to have the opportunity to work directly with school children and promote the role of Landscape Architects. It was nervous prior to undertaking the first session with the children as being placed in front of 30 8 and 9 year olds was quite daunting, however I quickly discovered that they were extremely receptive and I found that the children became totally engaged as the sessions progressed and thoroughly bought into the ideas of regenerating the chosen space coming up with wide range of ideas.
I ended up looking forward to the weekly sessions and opportunity to undertake a different role to that I do on a day to day basis.’