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Publication Detail
‘Islands for learning and playing’ – Leopold Primary School Playground Structures
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    Storp S, Weber P
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    114, 123
  • Published proceedings:
    Archtheo '15 IX Theory and history of architecture conference proceedings
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    Archtheo '15
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On average children in the UK spend around 2000 hours of their live in school playgrounds. Yet current guidelines for outdoor play spaces by the Department for Education are very basic and do not referring to any clear design statements only referring to a space for ‘pupils to play outside.’ (DoE: Advice on Standards for School Premises. p13). The Area Guidelines for Mainstream Schools defines outside spaces as areas offering a ‘wide range of educational opportunities and social space.’ (DoE: Area Guidelines for Mainstream Schools. p36) Harlesden in North-West London is one of the most deprived areas in London. In 1999 it had the highest murder rate in the whole of the UK according the Police Crime League Tables. The population is historically of a mostly Caribbean culture but in the last couple of years it attracted as well a sizable Brazilian, Somalian and Portuguese community. In the past it has been compared to the London Bronx. Although bordering on Zone 2 of the public transport with excellent links to central London it has still the lowest property prices in inner-London and is classified as a low participation neighborhood in terms of university applications. Leopold Primary School is a mixed community school in the heart of Harlesden. It has overall around 500 pupils. Nearly 1/3 of them are on free school meals, over 40% with English not their first language and about 40% of the pupils being cared for by local authorities or other family members. In the past Leopold Primary School has managed to be provide an excellent early year education inspiring pupils to archive higher than average results. The headteacher, Mrs Kendall, is an inspirational figure in the local community and the main driver for a positive change in the early year education. The facilities of Leopold Primary School are far from ideal, suffering from years of neglect by the local authorities due to budget cuts in the borough of Brent. Especially the outside spaces are lacking an inspirational and challenging environment in line with the new curriculum taught at the English KS1. It is not possible to overhaul the entire school and its outside spaces so over the last two years we have started to improve the school environment by using specific local authority funding to tackle urgent issues in and around the school. After an initial consultation with the staff and the pupils we implemented a change in the restrooms of the entire school, changing, modernising and improving the basic environment for the pupils. Through a colour coding and changing of surfaces this main area of concern is now working well. The ‘Learning Islands’ will continue the approach of a specific localised intervention into the exisiting fabric and running of the school. The project aims to enrich the outdoor playing area with a series of educational fun structures that enable the teacher to engage the early year pupils in a series of curriculum-related activities. The learning islands will enable the teachers and learning advisors to use the precious outside space for engaging and inspiring learning games. At the same time the pieces will enable the children to engage with current issues of recycling and greening of the city in a creative and fun way. The project follows principles of creative play developed and implemented by Aldo van Eyck in the 1950-1970 and more recently the work of the Baupiloten practice in Berlin in their school projects. The project will draw in help from the local school parent communities, engage the children in the design and creation of the structures and present surrounding schools with a blueprint for further dissemination. The impact of the structures will last for years to come as they will engage and (hopefully) inspire many future generations of primary school children. The project is planned for the last term with the school community and will be implemented during the summer break to be ready for the start of the new autumn term. Research questions: How can you enrich a school play area with well-designed learning structures? How can a structure be adapted for teaching and learning throughout the seasons? How can a series of architectural interventions be designed to be self-supporting and self-sufficient? Research methods: Enriching the learning environment Promoting creativity Encourage physical activities Develop confidence Enjoy play
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