Leopold Primary School Nursery Playground play/learn

The Learning Island Project is part of an on-going research project by Storp Weber Architects and the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. The Learning Island is located in the Nursery playground at Leopold Primary School, Hawshead Road, London NW10 9UR. Over the last two years an initiative to refurbish and update the facilities in the school was complemented with a workshop with some Year 5 and Year 6 children during the annual Summer Exhibition by the Bartlett School in the main campus of UCL. During this time ideas for playing and learning were explored with the children through drawing and during a later stage through modelling.


The idea behind the Learning Island is to create a freestanding temporary structure for the nursery playground. This structure combines a series of ideas following up the requirements of the Keystage 1 (KS1) Learning outcomes and the desire to provide children at the nursery stage with an attractive play-structure that can be used to explore the KS1 curriculum further.

Through the design process and in consultation with the nursery staff three key elements were defined:

  1. The Deck – a raised platform to act as a stage for the whole nursery for role play, ad-hoc performances during playtime and to be used for character building sessions to allow the children to step up and explain their ideas/projects to their friends and the rest of the school
  1. The raised Bucket Planters – the back of the structure is formed by a seating bench which incorporated a series of embedded planters. These will be planted with aromatic plants to allow the children a multi sensual learning experience. Esp. dyslexic children benefit form a aromatic environment during the learning sessions as their memory will link the smells and the subjects learned.
  1. The Structure – an overarching structure to create a sense of place and to allow the teaching staff to attach shading elements for the hotter days in of the year.
  1. The Number Sequence – a series of three dimensional numbers attached to the structure to allow the children to practice their numbers from 1 to 10 though movement around the structure – a kineastic learning device.

The design

The design evolved as a free standing element in the middle of the playground that does not need any specific foundations penetrating the playground surface. By elevating the structure off the ground by using standard scaffolding feet the weight of the elements are spread over a wider area and the structure is protected from ground rot.

Using standard components for the structural part of the Island does not need any specific structural calculations as they are designed for far higher loads and stress in the construction industry.

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