Taking the lid off the classroom

Philip Watson | 10 Sep 2015 | Comments

Remember how excited you were at school when it was break time? Now imagine that feeling – of being active, playing and simply being outside – lasted for most of your school day.

One of our schools, Lime Tree Primary Academy, has actually made this a reality for the 363 youngsters who go there. As a ‘forest school’ they now receive a good part of their curriculum outdoors, and it’s a great source of pride to me that our building design has been a part of making this possible.

We designed the building to create a physical and metaphysical forest, where the line between the outdoors and the indoors is blurred. There’s columns clad in tree bark, green and sky blue cladding inspired by leaves in the sunlight, and classrooms full of natural light connected by ‘forest clearings’. Students have so many spaces to explore and learn without being in a traditional classroom, and they can feel like they’re outdoors even when they’re indoors with the avenues and ‘forest clearing’ breakout areas.

So is it all just fun and play and no work at Lime Tree? A recent study actually found that students’ memory and attentiveness is better in schools that have more green space. And that’s certainly what they’ve found at Lime Tree. As Alison Dean, head of school, told us, “Some of the learning that’s gone on outside is what’s memorable and what stays with the children”.

We visited Lime Tree recently to see how this works in practice and how the building is actually being used, and it was beyond what we’d imagined. We took some video while we were there, which you can watch here. It’s incredible to see how the teachers are ‘taking the lid off the classroom’, and it’s great that we were part of making it happen…seeing the impact we’re making, that’s what makes me want to come into work in the morning.