Mary Jackson loves the Science Park at Burnham Copse Primary School as it allows children to get hands (and feet) - on with practical science.
In 2007 the infant and junior schools joined together to form a primary school and in 2008 the whole school moved into newly refurbished buildings and grounds. Part of this refurbishment was the development of the school's science park which has been created to allow children to devise and carry out experiments outside.
When she visited one November Mary saw that many of the children playing and working in the extensive sand area had bare feet. This was something she had seen when visiting other countries but not seen in the UK before. The staff explained that the children really liked to be able to feel the sand under their feet as well as in their hands and that they were often keen to remove their shoes before using the area.
Within the large sand pit is a series of structures that can be used by the pupils to conduct practical experiments. There are lifts and pulleys, towers and rails and on the visit pupils were working out how to transport sand around the circuit of systems without it touching the ground. As well as the main structures there were also dustbins full of odds and ends to be used by the children - such as empty bottles, buckets, spades, sieves and funnels.
Pupils also enjoyed writing in the sand and staff were looking at how they could use the science park in different ways for future projects.
The science park is not the only outside space in the school that has been developed for learning and play. One of the most significant features of the refurbishment of has been the reorientation of the building and the addition of balconies across front elevation. Staff often use these spaces for teaching whilst pupils say that they enjoy looking out across the grounds from high up.
Other features that have been developed include grass mounds towards the front of the school. These give a element of privacy but have also been used by the pupils for seating and play. One mound is curved into a simple amphitheatre shape and has been used as seating for audiences for performances. Further around the grounds are shade sails, seating, playground markings and play equipment, with the overall site being zoned for different types of activity - such as quiet play and more physical activities.
This school has certainly had a new lease of life with changes both to the buildings and the grounds and the staff and pupils can be proud of their school in both its physical changes and also the way they have risen to the challenge of making the most of their revitalised new site.