In 2017 Highgate Primary School asked us to design an outdoor classroom for a small under-utilised space outside of their reception and nursery rooms that has little light but already had an existing cover. The head teacher wanted to bring learning outside and they needed multi-use flexible space that could be used for formal learning as well as informal play and performances for the children.
The brief was to create a space where small groups of children could do activities such as reading, arts and storytelling. The space should be somewhere to spontaneously put on a show and also to practice for school assemblies and performances. Additionally it should provide the parents a comfortable place to wait at drop off and pick up times.
Collective Works facilitated an ideas workshop with the school children on colour, shape, landscape and why learning outside is different from learning inside. This all added life to the abstract landscape. The children saw trees, flying comets, beaches and erupting volcanoes and were very excited about small secret doors where no adults are allowed. A non-prescriptive space is open to any interpretation and any use and becomes a perfect place to learn and play.
The designs were well received but due to lack of funding had to be put on hold. As a socially aware and community driven practice we wanted to find a way to make this happen for Highgate Primary School. In 2015 we had initiated a crowd funding campaign to build Paradise Park Pavilion in Islington and we knew the power of coming together in the community. So we partnered with nearby OmVed Gardens, a new space in North London which has been exploring the relationship between food and well being. Together we hosted a hugely successful fundraising event which has subsequently led to the outdoor classroom being realised in the ground of the school.