Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Elementary is an Eco-Certified School in Burlington, ON and part of the Halton Catholic School Board. In an effort to create a play space that aligned more closely with their values and approach to education, the school focused on developing a more nature-based play space. The goal was to create a space that allowed them to provide a wider range of play opportunities and sensory experiences and to create a space that would allow them to extend the classroom outdoors
During the process of envisioning the new play space, there were a few major challenges/issues that needed to be addressed: current play opportunities were severely limited for children with accessibility challenges, abundance of paved surfacing, and protecting the existing trees on site appropriately while incorporating them into the design.
To address the lack of limited play opportunities and accessibility the design comprises separate spaces or "pods" dedicated to outdoor curriculum, dramatic/imaginative play, sand & water / fine-motor-skills and gross-motor play. Care was taken to arrange these pods for seamless flow of play from one activity to the next.
To address the abundance of paved surfacing, we cut a significant portion of the existing asphalt and expanded the fence line. The result was a more sensible circulation path and almost double the amount of lush green space. Additionally, we increased the amount of topography by manipulating the grade and adding a variety of plant material while protecting the existing trees on site. Not only did this increase children’s opportunities to engage with natural elements, but it created visually defined spaces with various behavior settings, ultimately improving the functionality of the space for children and educators.