Date of installation: 2012
Rookwood Nursery School & Academy
Rookwood Nursery School and Academy's new playscape designed by Wicksteed has been shortlisted by the British Council for School Environments in their 'Healthy School Award - Excellence in the provision of dining or outdoor play facilities'.
Rookwood Nursery School & Academy has been a private family owned and run childcare facility for over 28 years and caters for children with ages ranging from 0 months right up to 11years, for before and after-school care.
The nursery has always recognised the important influence that outdoor play has on a child's development. They needed their outdoor space to appeal to a broad age range of children, to be able to be used in all weathers and to inspire imaginative play. The old outdoor area was divided into segments with areas of grass, tarmac and soft play, including two ageing sheds.
Wicksteed Playscapes came up with an initial design for the new play area and then children, parents and staff were consulted and given a questionnaire to see what they wanted. The response from the questionnaire helped draw out the final design and some of the ideas were implemented in the final play scheme.
It was decided that the majority of grassed zones were to be made from artificial turf to prevent muddy areas during wet weather and these are interlinked with natural grassed areas. A tunnelled artificial turfed mound with log steps provides jumping and climbing activity and the tunnel itself provides shelter for children in wet weather - as well as an exciting place to hide! There are two further mounds with a plank running between and lots of natural logs to balance on and jump over.
"Our children now have greater freedom, not only to run and shout, but also to interact with and manipulate the environment. Our areas flow from one to another; they stimulate the children's senses and nurture their curiosity."
To stimulate the senses a sensory garden has been planted by the children, with fragrant herbs and flowers, giving them further opportunities to learn how things grow, and to just enjoy the sensation of getting their hands dirty. The sensory garden also incorporates the gentle sound of outdoor wind chimes, a water feature and sand play providing different textures to play with.
"Encouraging the children to get involved with planting and gardening, gives them a real sense of ownership and responsibility of their outside area", says Tony.
To make the space work, some of the equipment had to be mobile to offer greater flexibility with play activities:
• Wooden wigwams were introduced that can be used both in imaginative play and as shelter from the sun or rain.
• Tall wooden pencils that are normally fixed into position have been given mobility by setting them in concrete filled recycled tyres.
• Giant chalk boards bring the classroom outside
• Wooden train set offers imaginative play for younger children
• Moveable canopies that can be moved and taken down provide essential shade and shelter
• Bird feeding tables encourage wildlife into the area for the children to see
• Bug area
Longevity of equipment and natural materials were important factors in the final play area design. Thick timber wooden posts are used throughout, including logging on the exterior of the sheds to give them a new lease of life and enable them to blend with the play area. Benches are made from heavy duty railway sleepers which will take the rough and tumble of children clambering over them
Response to the new play area has been really positive from children, parents and staff at Rookwood.
"I like the bit where I slide down. It's like the Teletubby garden; I can slide down all the way", child from Rookwood Nursery
"Our natural and wild environment has created a stimulating and exciting addition to what we already have to offer to the children at Rookwood. This is a place for our children to learn, develop, make friends and explore all that the outdoor world has to offer.
The bird and bug station has enabled the children to feed the birds, learn about insects, watch their friends at play and observe the change of the seasons. The digging area has been a fun, stimulating hands-on area, a place to get our hands dirty and a place to investigate.
The sensory area and sand and water play has encouraged the children to explore in a safe and secure outdoor environment while feeling a sense of freedom.
The tunnel has created a hiding place and the mounds to climb over have allowed the children to feel a sense of challenge and risk and yet the children will be safe and secure.
The children at Rookwood have wonderful imaginations and creativity and, without doubt, our natural and wild element, through our children's eyes', is an outstanding place to be!" Clair Shaw, Deputy Manager, Rookwood Private Nursery School & Academy
Christine and Tony Moore of Rookwood Nursery School, Bury, Lancs said, "All staff, parents and children at Rookwood had input into the wonderful natural outdoor adventure playground that Wicksteed Playscapes built for us. The children had a direct input into the project and nothing that they asked for was too much trouble for the wonderful team at Wicksteeds!! Looking forward to many happy hours playing in our unique and natural environment, thanks again Wicksteed!!!"
"Within Rookwood's design they understood the importance that a creative innovative learning environment has for a child. They developed a natural challenging space that can be used all year round.
The space created by Rookwood will give the children hands on new experiences throughout the seasons, giving opportunities to grow, develop and explore through new risky play yet appreciating the value of quiet, reflective and sensory time." Nicola Lee, Bury Childcare & Extended Services
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