The Sustainable Outdoor Learning Area created at Petersham Public School provides students and teachers with open-air classrooms and opportunities to connect with the environment.
Driven by a vision of sustainable and environmental stewardship, the project complements outdoor learning activities already in place such as a chicken coop, and a herb and vegetable garden cared for by students.
There are four new outdoor areas – a Garden Classroom, Library Lawn, The Link and Secret Native Garden, which Principal Hugh Miller says will enhance the school’s teaching and learning programs.
“It enables us to link and embed a range of curriculum areas: English, Maths, Science and Technology, Geography, History, PDHPE and Creative Arts,” he says.
“All of those disciplines can come together in new, interesting, and innovative ways in an outdoor learning space.”
Further benefits are expected to come from bringing education into the outdoors.
“Outdoor learning is good for your mental and physical health; it develops a connection to the environment and a greater understanding of sustainability in our students,” he says.
“And it develops a sense of environmental responsibility and stewardship.”
The project was realised through the dedicated efforts of the school community, teachers and P&C, with the particular contribution of parents Samantha Anderson and Maja Grujic, says P&C President David Shannon.
“We wanted to look at ways of delivering some of our outcomes related to environmental responsibility and strong partnerships between students, teachers, parents and families,” says Shannon.
“After a great deal of work, two years of fundraising effort and many hours of volunteering, we’ve arrived at the proud launch of Phase One of the Sustainable Outdoor Learning Project.”
A Garden Classroom, set between the chickens and vegetable beds, features long tables and benches facing a chalkboard for more formal lessons.
Escola tables with Escola slim benches were chosen to perfectly suit the kids’ height, and powder coated in bright Sensation Orange, Lobster Red, Brilliant Yellow, Viper Green and Bondi Blue to create a fun space.
The Library Lawn is an uplifting and inclusive social space, with a curvy rainbow bench and artwork painted by students showing off their favourite books.
“The library lawn looks fantastic with the rainbow seating, and students can sit there to read, or relax, or just to escape. And it’s somewhere for us to host Grandparents Day and morning teas in the future,” says Shannon.
The long rainbow bench was created with three Mall Curved Slim Benches set end-to-end, with powder coated battens specified in Lobster Red, Sensation Orange, Brilliant Yellow, Viper Green, Bondi Blue and Dark Violet.
The Link celebrates the connection between the main group of school buildings and areas dedicated to the Sustainable Outdoor Program.
A second wavy seat faces a chalkboard, with a colourful Escola slim bench and square Escola table to provide more seating and working spaces.
The three Mall Curved Slim Benches are again set end-to-end, powder coated in Viper Green, Lycra Strip and Brilliant Yellow.
The Secret Native Garden includes a yarning circle to encourage discussion and sharing ideas, and learning about local ecosystems.
The opening ceremony was attended by Jo Haylen, Member for Summer Hill, Anne Abbott, Senior Environmental Officer from Inner West Council, and local businesses who also supported the project.
Principal Miller says the project is just Phase One of the school’s Sustainable Outdoor Learning Program, with plans to install solar panels, further collaboration spaces, stingless native bee colonies and a rainwater garden in the pipeline.
“The Sustainable Outdoor Learning Area projects grow and sustain Petersham Public School’s status as an environmentally aware school, as is reflected in our school plan. This is really a big part of what we’re about here at Petersham.”