Magical children's garden a big hit at Junior School! | Aga Khan Academies

Magical children's garden a big hit at Junior School!

10 April 2019

Chloe Hill, PYP coordinator at the Aga Khan Academy Hyderabad, writes about setting up an outdoor learning space at Junior School. Since its inception, the peaceful new retreat has been a huge hit among students and staff. Chloe still has a lot in store for the space. I'd had my eye on a particular patch of greenery for quite some time and had been observing it through the seasonal changes to gauge its potential as a children’s garden. It sits at the end of the Junior School corridor but the puzzling fact that it was surrounded by a thick hedge meant that we couldn’t access it. A number of reasons why we couldn’t use it had been given, but only ever anecdotally and none of the reasons seemed insurmountable. So I designed a proposal as a part of an outdoor learning and play spaces revamp, got the go-ahead and, one fine day, a entrance way cut appeared in the hedge and we were allowed in!

Stepping inside this space for the first time was truly magical. It is a well-established garden with trees and flowering shrubs and is a haven for birds and butterflies. Though not a huge garden, once inside, you feel far removed from the rest of the school as it offers a deep feeling of calm and connection to nature. Staff and children took to it instantly; crèche children could be heard squealing in delight as they crawled under and through the bushes, playing hide-and-seek, and scaling trees. Before summer weather turned unbearable, teachers were able to take their children out in this natural classroom. There so much potential in this garden for our children, many of whom live in city apartments, to engage all their senses and explore nature in various ways.

We’ve also put in a log obstacle course for scrambling and balancing. Of course, items from the loose parts playground make their way in and out of the garden every day as children escape into the richness of their imaginations. As I’m writing this, sitting in the garden, I’m overhearing the pretend play of two four year-olds as they create a ‘campfire’ and sing improvised songs while they build together. The drama has taken a new turn with one child being ‘chased by a wolf’ and in need of rescue. The wolf has turned into a ‘robber’ and now a ‘monster’. Somehow the experience of being outdoors sparks creativity in all sorts of unexpected ways. Teachers too have been enjoying holding collaborative planning meetings here! We have many plans in the pipeline for engaging in this wonderful space. Once some logistical hurdles have been overcome, we will be able to create plots for flower and vegetable growing and hope to see artwork, music, creative writing, construction nature observation, science/tech projects and pretend play continuing to blossom in the garden.

Written by Chloe Hill