JPE Design Studio designed the King’s Baptist Grammar School ELC Outdoor Learning Area for creative play in Adelaide, Australia. Accompanying the new Early Learning Centre, the Outdoor Learning Area at King’s Baptist Grammar School inspires children to be challenged, take risks, and engage in creative play to shape their learning future. The landscape design leaves space for imagination and discovery, providing a range of diverse learning opportunities that embrace nature play and allow children to push their boundaries, learning through experience and active participation.
As a direct extension of the Reggio Emilia learning principles applied indoors, the Outdoor Learning Area empowers children in the confident exploration of varied environments. Incorporating natural materials and flexible spaces, the landscape design caters to a range of different learning styles and curricula, creating a diverse education environment that acts as the third teacher. The overall sense within the landscape is one of adventure and wonder. There are no straight paths, only corners to be turned, winding trails to be followed and discoveries to be made. Consisting of a performance deck, a sheltered sandpit, timber bridges that cross the creek way, log climbing structures, and a timber swing set, the landscape incorporates non-prescriptive play elements that give both teacher and student the opportunity to shape this space into something different every day. The landscape has been designed to complement and interact with the building, blurring the boundary between architecture and landscape.
The stone scramble which frames the covered outdoor learning environment, acts as not only a play element, but also as amphitheater seating for outdoor lessons. Fostering a connection to nature, the landscape design includes changeable natural, living systems that evolve with each season, showcased in the productive gardens, water pools, dry creeks and deciduous feature trees. The landscape utilises locally sourced materials where possible, including boulders and logs salvaged from the King’s Baptist Grammar School site.
Rainwater from the shelter roof is used for play and hand watering the kitchen garden, and the creek filters into groundwater at the end of its run. The Outdoor Learning Area at King’s Baptist Grammar School encourages varied educational experiences and risk-taking opportunities that support the important relationship students have with their environment. With a key focus on flexible and nature focused play, this landscape can easily change and adapt to each child’s imagination, playing a critical role in the development of their early education.