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Montessori International College

Filled with rich sensory experiences, the nature playspace at Montessori International College inspires students to play, learn and explore. What was a large, underutilised space was transformed through collaboration with students, teachers and playground designers, Urban Play, into a lush nature playspace that truly captures the essence of the school. From the very beginning, students and teachers were involved in the process to ensure the playspace encouraged exploration, discovery and self-confidence. It was imperative that the space upheld Montessori’s vision of high-quality learning spaces and engaging with the natural environment.

Once filled with bark, the playspace was brought to life through greenery and play equipment in hues of brown and green, creating a jungle like feel and a space that will grow with the students.  Many factors were taken into consideration when designing inside the circular courtyard such as the size of the space, the age of the children, the types of play, sun exposure, climate and budget.

The aim of the space was to create mini-scapes, within the landscape, that take children on multiple sensory stimulating play journeys. For the play equipment, KOMPAN Robinia Wood equipment was chosen as its winding shapes and beautiful raw appearance blends into the setting, giving the space visual and tactile authenticity. From the Robinia range, balance equipment was chosen as it helps to train eyesight and concentration – important for the classroom but also encourages them to get active at lunch and work on their balance skills. Hand-carved wooden totem poles decorated with native animals such as a Green Tree Frog, Possum, Kookaburra, Goanna and Koala, elevate the nature-feel of the space and create an opportunity for story-time, learning and discovery. The animal theme was continued throughout the play environment with animal footprints and trails being carved into the concrete edging by members of the school community.

Green rock ‘Mounges’ are scattered over the landscape and were custom designed by artist Nicole Voevodin-Cash. The Mounges provide a spot for children to sit, engage and interact in moveable, unstructured play. Matching the green of the Mounges and complementing the environments theme, green synthetic turf was placed through the middle of the playscape to separate the play zones and provide a space for students to sit, listen and learn.

In collaboration with Project Fort Awesome, a Cloud Garden Fort was created to provide refuge from the rough and tumble play. The Cloud Garden Fort creates a space for the kids to relax, reflect and refocus, with placement of the sun creating patterns on the wooden floor. The loose rope cladding provides an extra element of play, as it can be used to create a cubby fort with leaves or fabric.

Equipment Used

The Early Years playscape for Montessori International College sought to stimulate children and all their senses. The school community kept the round courtyard space as a multi-purpose celebration space for five years for the whole school, but the growth of the Early Years program on the ground floor encircling the courtyard, meant that the space had to be designed as an extension of their indoor learning environments and as an immersive landscape, be given over to the developing minds and bodies of the children

Phillip Daffra
Architect

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