From big to cosy – be inspired by this case study
Nordvangskolen was built in 1950 according to the design lines of the time, with both great architectural and craftsmanlike qualities. That particular era is known as the Golden Age in Danish architectural history, featuring a construction art whose value is easily lost during the renovation of the buildings and outdoor areas.
Nordvangskolen's existing areas were also not fun to hang out in, as there was nothing to do and the opportunity to be physically active was insufficient.
When we got the redesign task of the outdoor space and playground, we wanted to take into account both existing spatial layout as well as build bridges to bring the outdoor space into present day.
The school's outdoor areas were traditionally designed with large open spaces and these were no longer up-to-date. A new design was needed to live up to 'The Good School Life' in the 20th century. This is central to Nordvangskolen's work in the 21st century.
School staff and parents wanted to support play and the desire for movement.
The school playground in an activity area
All school playgrounds have enormous potential to promote the level of physical activity among children. So in our design paper, we focused on creating an outdoor space that would provide plenty of opportunities for diverse activities, movement and freedom to develop through fun play. A good foundation for learning was also required, and the outdoor space has to represent identity and be eye-catching.
The school playground was to contain 'a wealth' of play opportunities, and the many and large outdoor areas had to be re-thought, and then scaled down.
Downscaling the outdoor areas
Large and open outdoor spaces can look cold and scary. Some children will react by becoming passive and withdrawing from
activities. For the sensitive child, it is important to have the opportunity to walk away and join e.g. a role play in a small group.
Our design focused on creating smaller areas along with cosy environments to suit the school’s pre-preparatory, intermediate and lower-secondary stages.
Play equipment for physical activity was installed that improves children and adolescents' motor skills, learning ability, well-being and social skills e.g. behaviour in the classroom. The development of children's overall health is supported.
We have re-thought the large school playground and challenged the traditional image of the outdoor space. All in all, there is a different, active and playful outdoor area, which challenges the students and encourages social interaction and hours of hang-out time.
The large areas have become cosier
The school's outdoor space was split into six areas:
Area 1 - the large school playground the CITY
A large playground, lines and painted areas provide new spaces for play and activity. In addition to features such as trampolining, table football, pole football, basketball and learning, there are empty circles where the children can draw a four-square game, hopscotch, an alphabet etc.
Green colours have been added that go well against the red-brick buildings.
Area 2 - The green GARDEN
An area within an area with new planting for learning, group work and immersion. This is a sensory garden with three different areas, an outdoor classroom and a seating area.
Area 3 - The wild JUNGLE
New swing, carousels, lots of balance tools and two zip wires create a challenging and fun obstacle course.
The fire hut has been given new walls and benches.
Area 4 - whizz up and down the MOUNTAIN
Area split into four different hang-out zones with new planting, wide steps and a challenging BMX track.
Area 5 - Immersion in the LIBRARY GARDEN
Space for teaching and immersion. New planting provides a screen from parked cars and six large books serve as a stage, seating area and plant pots and give the area an identity.
Area 6 - meet on the STREET
Large panna court, four-square game, street basketball circle and trampolines. The green colour is reflected in the surface, where painted circles break the running strips, creating a nice cohesion between all the school's outdoor areas.
All measures were chosen based on the wishes and input of the students, teachers and the school board.
Research has taught us
Too little physical activity in the school playground is a complex problem. In her PhD thesis, Charlotte Pawlowski has identified 12 factors that influence children's physical activity during break times.
So when you want to strengthen the children’s physical activities, you need to be aware of this complexity and that children have different experiences of what affects their physical activity.
Charlotte Pawlowskis factors
1) bodily self-esteem and ability
3) gendered school culture
4) influence from friends
5) conflict and exclusion
6) space and place experience
7) lack of play facilities
8) support for outdoor play
9) mobile phone and tablet use
10) length of break time
11) organised activities and
Tips - bring more teaching outside
✓ Create a physically demarcated and changeable outdoor space
✓ Ensure there is cover for bad weather
✓ Make sure the physical framework is easy to decode as to the type of activity can be performed there (rough or calm play?)
✓ Give teachers tools for outdoor teaching
Tips - for inclusive outdoor spaces
✓ Create a space that is not like a classic playground
✓ Express diversity and encourage self-selected and teacher-led activities
✓ Create elements that will activate
✓ Rethink traditional facilities e.g. round swing set and multiple demarcated lanes
✓ Create multiple zones within the space
✓ Create hang-out places for relaxation
Read more in the leaflet 'Drøn på undervisningen' from the Danish Cancer Society, Realdania and The Local Construction Fund.
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