The Friends School is an independent co educational Quaker school situated in North Hobart catering for students from Kindergarten to Year 12. The kindergarten is a learning by enquiry based programme where the children guide the learning that occurs within the classroom depending on their current interests.
The brief for the kindergarten was to provide an outdoor learning environment that would support this method of teaching and provide a more natural, flexible type of play space.
The garden began its seed of thought in the theory based on our seven senses. Using Dr. Suess’s book My Many Coloured Days as inspiration, a series of workshops were held with the children in order to introduce the concept of the seven senses and how they related to their environment. Rather than ask ‘what do you want in the garden’ they were asked ‘when you feel a particular way what would you like to do in the garden?’
The workshops guided a design for the space full of tactile experiences and opportunities for different activities of play and learning to occur. Places to rest, places to be alone, run, explore, get messy etc.
A lovely part of the garden was a request for a circle of friends where the children could gather and chat. The meeting circle represents an integral part of the Quaker religion and this his has been placed at the entry to the garden. Beyond this lies the inquiry garden which will align with the discussions occurring in the classroom. It is a space of empty containers to fill as the children wish depending on what they are learning about at any given time so will change as the learning does.
Out of the consultation one of the requests was for ‘shiny happy things’, which was such a delightful request we experimented with a bit of bling in the creek bed. The children have since named this the shiny river and created a giant collage to represent it. A forest of she oaks was planted as a space for children to gather and tell stories around the campfire.
The planting strategy is designed to further enhance the sensory experience with plants selected according to sound, texture, sight and smell.
The space is a direct representation of the places and spaces the children in the workshops identified as being important to them.
The outdoor space has been in operation for approximately two months and during that time the inspiration and work generated from the children in direct response to the space is astounding. The various areas of the garden have been given names, the inside walls are covered in artwork inspired by the space and the children are making presents for the garden and giving tours to the older grades.
The teachers feedback is that it has completely changed the way the children play with evidence of more cooperative and imaginative play. One teachers response was ‘the space has given us the missing piece of the puzzle in regards our learning spaces. We don’t have indoors and outdoors, we have one space where all of the learning takes place.’