Eltham College Outdoor Playspace
Jeavons Landscape Architects
Commendation 6: Landscape / Outdoor Learning Area
1660 Main Road, Research
Eltham College Junior School Outdoor Play Space project blended four distinct sections into a single, effectively-functioning play space with diverse play choices and learning experiences for children of different ages and abilities. Areas for games, quiet, imaginary, dramatic and storytelling play, and also allowing adequate supervision and line of sight.
Eltham College sits in a picturesque, hilly, semi-rural setting in the outskirts of Melbourne. Learning and play opportunities were restricted due to poor connections between levels and indoor spaces, including the new Performing Arts Building. The College is committed to capturing the College values, experiential learning, creativity, innovative programs, learning beyond four walls, community, physical and social well-being and student voice. It was important that the spaces created a range of different scales and character, offering challenges for different age groups. Seating and gathering spaces have been strategically placed providing extensions to indoor learning. The use of levels encourages observation and varying challenges with sculptural screening providing protection from ball games. The variety in type of space is evident but not rigid, meandering between passive and active areas. There are diverse choices with zones for games, quiet times, imagination, drama and story-telling. The natural environment with its existing gums, has been well considered with ‘Nature Play’ located adjacent to Junior Learning. Materials selected through the play space enhance the natural landscape with the selection of natural and rustic elements including amphitheatre boulders, a carved log trough and large granite ‘standing stones.
The changes made to the school and its operation, are immense providing flexibility and room for imagination and creativity. The project is commended for its execution and exceeding the Colleges’ expectations.
Eltham College engaged Jeavons Landscape Architects to design the outdoor areas of their Junior School. The aim of the new outdoor areas was to complement the school’s Learning Adventures program and enhance the connections between indoor and outdoor learning.
It is a play space that:
- has responded to the ideas of the school community
- creates opportunities for risks and challenges
- reflects school values
- incorporates gathering spaces for adults, students and classroom practice
- embraces the natural environment with the use of natural materials, surfaces and textures
- converges sculptural elements with practical purpose
- acts as a stage for story and narrative
- allows for quiet space with visibility to other areas
- cleverly utilizes high platforms and elevation with viewing areas for students to identify and observe group games before entering play
The resulting outdoor areas include:
- gathering spaces have been placed strategically outside all classrooms; the learning environment on the inside is mirrored outside
- play equipment area with a ‘Treehouse’ theme nestled within the existing trees and incorporating the Datum Sculpture
- reconstructed boulder retaining wall with nooks incorporated into the slope; different routes offer varying challenges to move across, up and down the slope
- a rejuvenated Datum Sculpture where the children can now climb and play
- a newly levelled larger ball game area set into a grassy slope with ‘amphitheatre’ boulder seats
- new seating gathering spaces outside the Years 5 and 6 classrooms as an extension to their indoor learning. The area is protected from the ball courts by decorative screens
- a refurbished main entrance with groupings of seats and decks for gathering, informal performances and meeting up with families
- a natural play area with new sandpit, accessible cubby, carved log trough and large granite ‘standing stones’
- new links between the outdoor areas and the new Performing Arts Building. The decks and seating areas provides for meeting and socializing space during school events
- the design enhances the distinctive natural landscape identity of the school. Materials were selected to be natural and ‘rustic’.