Outdoor Living Classroom used to Teach Children about Nature

Blogger’s Note: Today’s children and families often have limited opportunities to connect with the natural environment. This “nature deficit” is believed to have a negative effect on children from childhood obesity to social and psychological issues. Connecting children with nature has a huge impact on the following: enhancing cognitive skills, reducing stress, improving problem solving skills and helping children develop an appreciation and respect for nature to name a few. As a child fortunate enough to grow up in the country surrounded by nature, this blogger is a huge advocate of the importance of exposing children to the natural environment. Teaching children to respect nature will allow them to grow into well-rounded, environmentally conscientious adults resulting in a greener future. One architecture studio agrees and has built an outdoor classroom that evolves to constantly teach children about nature. 

Great design can bring kids closer to nature without hurting the bank. Just ask AP+E, an architecture studio that designed Hedge School, a competition-winning pavilion used as an outdoor classroom for a primary school in Carlow, Ireland. Made of natural and sustainable materials, this low-cost timber amphitheater creates a playful and sensory environment surrounded by nature.

Set in a green lawn, the Hedge School is defined by a circle of plywood columns of varying heights that support a staggered row of wooden planters. A steel wire mesh for growing vines covers the space between the pavilion floor and planter. The interior of the pavilion, which was designed with the scale of a child in mind, features a gravel floor and plywood platforms that double and steps and seating. The unnprogrammed space is large enough to accommodate a class can be used for a variety of purposes including performance, cooking lessons, and play.

AP+E also created a year-round planting design to give the Hedge School a continuously evolving appearance with minimal maintenance. The pavilion’s raised plant beds allow students to grow their own food and watch the plants develop over the seasons. “Through planting, growing, studying and finally eating their plants the children are not only taught basic skills but more importantly also learn how their actions directly affect their surroundings,” write the architects. Over time, the entire pavilion will be cloaked in a veil of greenery.

From the article “Outdoor living classroom constantly evolves to bring children closer to nature” by Lucy Wang.