IMS landscape consultancy
Simkins BSc, Dip LA, PCHE, PhD, FHEA, MI Hort, CMLI
Chartered Landscape Architect
|IMS landscape consultancy services: school grounds|
School grounds improvement projects have been undertaken for a number of years in Nursery and Primary Schools as well as a Senior School. I have developed and refined various participatory methodologies which I have used with adults and children between the ages of 4 and 14 in order to develop inclusive schemes that promote a sense of ownership and provide environments amenable for play as well as informal and formal learning.
It is important that school grounds are not just aesthetically pleasing but should present opportunities for learning through both social activities in play and more formally through structured teaching. In addition the environments routinely encountered in the school grounds should be experientially rich. It is proposed that outdoor places routinely encountered by primary school age children influence their capacity to fully develop environmental experiences that are significant to life quality. However, conventional approaches to the design of these settings may be limited in their effectiveness because important experiential dimensions are insufficiently embedded.
To achieve these objectives the design process is preferably informed by various participatory techniques that provide an inclusive approach to the project's outcome, and not only focus on the form and function of the site but equally consider the experiential potential of the existing situation and experientially enrich the design proposals.
Participation is a significant part of the design process and used as a tool to bring out the ‘personality’ of a school within improvements to the school grounds.
It has been found that this approach highlights in particular that the personality of the school resides, not only in its spatial and physical elements, but also in the minds and imagination of the school’s users.
From a designers perspective one of the aims of this part of a project is to develop a means to draw out meanings and associations that the school’s children and adults have and feel about their environment.
This is felt to be especially important to inform design decision making that ultimately develops a school environment that not only fulfils any funding objectives and the school’s aspirations, but is also emotionally and experientially rich with a unique sense of place.
An article on our approach to participation was published in green places, Issue 22, February 2006, pp. 22-27.
Design with People in Mind