Who are we?
Droxford Junior School is a small rural school with about 170 pupils located in the Meon Valley, at the Hampshire end of the South Downs National Park. The parent-teacher association FODS (Friends of Droxford School) are working closely on this project with the head teacher, Mr Dampier, the governors and staff.
What we’re planning?
As part of the Strategic Plan developed to maximise the use of the school’s outside space, we would like to install a natural log play trail (Area 6 on the plan). There are currently no facilities in the grounds for children to benefit from ‘risky play’ learning to explore and push their own physical capabilities. Made from natural materials, the proposed play trail will provide a place for children to play all year round, which blends with our stunning natural environment. Located in an underused corner at the perimeter of the playing field, this equipment will not reduce the area available for sports activities.
How did we decide this is what we want?
Earlier this year, thanks to funding of £1000 from Aviva Community Fund, we engaged Catherine Eldred, Principal Landscape Architect of the HCC Landscape Strategy Team to develop this Strategy document. Working with all stakeholders – the teachers, parents, pupils and governors a Strategy Plan was created to redevelop the school’s outside space to maximise its potential for both outdoor learning, physical well-being and social interaction in playtime, as well as access, circulation, welcome and the natural environment.
Head teacher, Matthew Dampier said: “We know we have a wonderful space already, but that we don’t make nearly enough of its potential, the process of developing this Strategy Plan has been invaluable in helping us to prioritise the actions that we can take both in the short and long term to really make the most of the school’s grounds.”
The process started with a questionnaire asking stakeholders to evaluate how they felt about the school grounds. This then fed into the first workshop rating the current facilities, from the drop off area, and playground to the field and its underused periphery. Participants also discussed a range of topics and were invited to help define a holistic vision for the strategy by completing the sentence: “We would like our school grounds to be a place where…”
- we can enjoy ourselves.
- the outside continues to enable physical well-being.
- creativity can be encouraged.
- first impressions and spending time outside at school is welcoming to all.
- we respect our environment.
- the grounds support and promote learning as much as the buildings.
- the grounds support emotional and mental well-being.
- there is year-round accessibility to all of the grounds.
- the whole school community get to enjoy a closeness to the natural world.
- we feel safe and secure.
The second workshop involved the whole school, all the pupils, teachers and FODS representatives and governors in a ‘blue skies thinking’ exercise. The children were very engaged in this discussion process and enthusiastically articulated why they had selected certain images as for ideas they would like to see prioritised in the future plan. It was exciting to see that many stakeholders shared similar visions of how the grounds could and should be used and what changes, large and small could be made to make this a reality.
Easy steps, like encouraging children to keep a pair of wellies in school so that they can play on the field whatever the season, have been taken and plans for welly storage units are taking shape. This means that there will be less pressure for space on the Playground which was described during the workshops as: “busy, crowded, sometimes unsafe, cramped, tight, fun but overwhelming.”
Already the school have started making a collection of loose play items for children to engage in ‘Den Building’ at lunchtime, it has proved very popular. In one of the workshops a group had said: “We could make places inside which we could hide, we could learn to build things that would be useful, like a kennel for the School Dog!” As you’ll see even Luna the therapy dog is pleased with this development.
With funds raised from a family sponsored walk of the first section of the South Downs Way (13 miles from Winchester to Exton), FODS have purchased a set of Outlast Blocks for use on the Multi-Use Area of the playground to support STEM learning and creative play. They've proved very popular as well!
We’re all very proud of the actions that have already been taken. Other elements of the Strategic Plan will take more time and money to action.
How will the money raised be spent?
We are raising funds to develop the log trail for the Natural Play Area. We’ve been to see similar facilities at other schools and have a quote from an approved supplier to design, source materials, and safely install the log trail. The sections of tree to installed will be sourced locally and the trail will include elements to develop coordination, balance, strength and risk taking. Theoretically it is possible to undertake work on the log trail in a phased manner, however ideally it would all be completed in one go as this will be more economical and less disruptive to the school.
It is in this corner of the playing field that we will install the log trail...
…and this is an example of a similar trail installed at another school.
We would really like to get this trail installed by the end of this academic year, we know that's ambitious, but let's try! No doubt FODS will organise a super launch event when it's been signed off as ready for use, so we'd be delighted to keep in touch with donors to update on you on progress and invite you to join the celebrations.