Macartans PS Outdoor Learning Environment

St. Macartans natural outdoor learning spaces have become thriving places for active, engaged learning and playing. A true collaboration of ideas and creative design, involving the School community, Law Architects, Sam Cox Landscapes and RB Landscapes has resulted in a seasonally responsive tactile natural place of wonder and delight that continues to evolve.

Project Details

Law Architects Pty Ltd

Winner Category 6 - Landscaping/Outdoor Learning Area

Bungower Rd Mornington Victoria 3931 Australia

Law Architects Pty Ltd


Rob Hamer Photography

Project Overview

Building a new school offers the chance to ‘walk the talk’. Classroom conversations around sustainable communities and environments can be realised, challenged and imagined.

The conversion of ‘spaces’ into thriving ‘places’ required careful planning and a strong commitment for ongoing stewardship by the school community. The team wanted to avoid a plethora of concrete, clean, hoseable areas with artificial grass where kids could ‘run and play safely’ at lunchtime then come indoors to ‘learn’.

Underlying principles of the environment they wanted to embed into the site meant the site needed to:
Become a serious learning tool for exploring issues of sustainability,
Encourage high levels of involvement with the community within and beyond.
Become a haven for local flora and fauna and contribute to the health of the local area.
Encourage a sense of curiousity and inquisitiveness of the natural world, and high level of tactility of materials.
Allow for a measure of risk-taking.
Ensure that seasonal changes are seen, noticed and explored by the students.
Attention to the ‘edges’ and the spaces ‘inbetween’ meant the design of the landscape and the buildings needed to happen simultaneously.

The concept design of the landscapes was created by Law Architects. Sam Cox Landscapes undertook the next step of working with the land. Careful and skilled placement of rockwork, riverstones, gravel and planting ensured that the builder formed swales had the makings of a real ecosystem safe enough to passively explore by the children. These swales collect the water, filter with native and indigenous planting before discharging into the local stormwater catchment and creeks.

A Sustainability Centre was set up by the school that would house the animals (chooks, guinea pigs worms and now pigs!) and grow vegies and fruit. With the need for an outdoor kitchen to work in, the school approached Richard Bellemo from RB Landscapes. The result is a wonderful setting for a learning experience and a good pizza from the oven. The transformation of one of the grassy swales into an rich passive playground by RB Landscapes has now become one of the features of the school.

As with all healthy ecosystems, life occurs at the ’edges’. The ‘edges’ at St. Macartans are countless and growing and by many hands.

This page last updated: Monday 17 December 2012