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Early Years: Outdoor Building

In 2012 Matt Shaw and I were invited to develop an outdoor learning environment for a daycare setting in Leicester. We were to revitalise a part of the outdoor area by designing and installing some new structures and provocations to support children’s imaginative play.

The area was basically a circle with part of the boundary being a fence. There were already posts installed which made it ideal for a set of ‘panels’ each with a different idea. The setting was interested in a xylophone and so we chose the fence area against which to make a sort of ‘tunnel-xylophone’ the children could go in and out of as well as play. The panels were all roughly the same size and so we designed different provocations for each one: perspex-door-viewer panel, metallophone panel, water panel, posting-spinner panel and stake-forest, and there were other areas in the garden where we placed a compost-pit, a speaking-hose and a big thwacker-speaker tube and Matt had been in before to make a rustic timber low-climber.

This time-lapse film shows us building the big xylophone:

And these films show some of the things we made:






We started with a music workshop for the children, then we made the outdoor structures and culminated in an outside session for parents with their children making drums and playing music indoors and out. Once the environment was created and tried out, we re-visited the setting to observe children interacting with the structures, to make any changes and to finalise the building.