Sustainable Estate

Time: 14:30 - 15:30

Date: 27-Nov-2019


Re-imagining Holistic Learning: Natalie Murray, Landscape Architect, Wardell Armstrong and Wiktoria Szulik, Wardell Armstrong

With the increase in need for educational spaces in the 1400h Early Years expansion proposals, there is a new pressure on policy makers, local councils, designers and contractors to rethink the way we plan, imagine and create spaces for children to learn.

Through years of research into childhood development, numerous studies have provided insight into the physical and mental health issues faced by children today, and the importance of providing children with spaces which offer opportunities and facilitate wellbeing. Outdoor spaces are a key way to offer a natural and stimulating environment for children, forming a key part of our current approach to Education. These spaces must be diverse, inclusive and support the educational curriculum, as well as offering multiple stimulating environments to enhance and encourage personal growth.

While outdoor learning is key to the Early Years expansion proposals, it is often forgotten while progressing through the further stages of education. By putting landscape at the forefront of a new way of approaching education, projects such as inter generational and community campuses, diverse outdoor learning spaces can be created. These must not only offer opportunity for education and personal development for children, but also support the local community as a whole.

Emphasising the importance of the Landscape Architects role in holistic placemaking, Natalie Murray will discuss how collaborative involvement of Landscape Architecture throughout projects has benefited and streamlined the design process, ultimately leading to developing a unique child-meet-nature focused landscape design approach in Education, and how these experiences can be translated across the sector.

Outdoor Learning and Play: Our Vision for School Grounds in Edinburgh: Michaela Lyons & Andrew Bagnall, City of Edinburgh Council

The Learning Estate Planning Team at City of Edinburgh Council have produced a vision for what we want our school grounds to be like:

We want our school grounds to be inspiring spaces that are safe and inclusive and improve wellbeing. They should provide diversity in learning experiences and play opportunities and promote social and environmental responsibility.

Based on a variety of research and collaboration with council officers on outdoor learning and play we aim to create well-designed school grounds that improve pupil and teacher wellbeing, promote outdoor learning, facilitate numerous types of play and having greater links with their communities.

Michaela and Andrew will talk about the Council’s aspirations for its learning estate with a focus on achieving the vision for school grounds in our high schools and the engagement process with learners at Castlebrae High School for their new school; which is our first new high school project where we have engaged with learners on their outdoor space with a view to it being a place for learning, socialising and playing.

Outdoors is the New Indoors: Rachel Cowper – Inspiring Scotland

Outdoor play has much more to offer than the simplicity of these two words suggest.

In a time when the expansion is for front in many minds – the ability to deliver high quality childcare can be answered through the use of outdoor natural spaces and outdoor play based learning.  However, the benefits outdoor play based learning straddles early learning and indeed has impact on school environments and the Learning Estates for the Future.

Reflecting on the growth of outdoor nurseries in Scotland – and the use of the outdoors via Space to Grow, dispersed service and through fully outdoors the models. These models also contribute directly to more sustainable approaches.

Sustainability is not just about the built environment, but the modelling children see from their teachers, the materials they interact with and the environment they are educated and supported within.

With reference to previous and current research underway and examples of good practice already in operation across Scotland.  We hope to raise the profile and benefits that can occur through making use of our natural spaces in communities across Scotland – both short and longer term.

Ten years of natural play in a Scottish School: Merrylee Urban Jungle 2009 – 2019: Felicity Steers, erz landscape architects

Merrylee is the first natural play ground in a Scottish School and was built as pilot project by Glasgow City Council and the Forestry Commission in 2009. This presentation looks at the hurdles overcome in building and maintaining this unique space, and explores and celebrates the great learning and social outcomes for the school community. A psychometric study of a cohort of childrens provides tangible data backed up by the school’s own research undertaken after PEF fund investment into outdoor learning and teaching. The presentation will be highly visual with lots of photos of the site over the years and will conclude with a look at the current challenges in regard to early years provision and primary school estates and how we can learn from the Urban Jungle.



  • Wiktoria Szulik Senior Landscape Architect - Wardell Armstrong
  • Natalie Murray Landscape Architect - Wardell Armstrong
  • Felicity Steers Landscape Architect - erz landscape architects
  • Michaela Lyons Learning Estate Planning Team - City of Edinburgh Council
  • Andrew Bagnall Outdoor Learning Team - City of Edinburgh Council
  • Rachel Cowper Programme Manager - Inspiring Scotland


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