Education Outside The Classroom

A few months ago, Badgemore Primary School in Henley became the proud recipient of a new Outdoor Classroom, gifted by Reading’s talented architecture students.

The Outdoor Classroom is a striking wooden pavilion designed and built by second year architecture students as part of their undergraduate studies here at Reading. Tim Hoskins, Headteacher at Badgemore, is delighted by the latest addition to the school grounds and says that the new outdoor learning space has been warmly welcomed by children, staff and parents alike.

“Outdoor learning is an integral part of the education at Badgemore Primary School, but with the British weather, it is not always a viable option. Playing and learning outside, particularly as part of our Forest School is encouraged regardless of the weather, but recording information is not always easy.

“Now with our new structure provided by the architecture students from the University of Reading, we can learn outside throughout the year whatever the weather!”

Since its construction, the wooden structure has gone through several incarnations. It originally began as an Urban Room, a visually stimulating focal point located on the beautiful London Road campus during May and June. As part of the University’s arts strategy, the Urban Room hosted a programme of events asking, “how can arts practice help create a door between the town and the University?”

The programme included six artist micro-residencies in collaboration with Reading Arts and Jelly, as well as reflective events hosted by Reading School of Art and Reading International about their recent community-facing programmes. Hybrid Practices were also celebrated through an architectural-artistic lens, allowing the public, artists and University researchers to explore what happens when different experts come together to investigate a set of problems.

Before its arrival at Badgemore, the Urban Room was also an exhibition venue for architecture students to showcase their work. And far from being a passive recipient of the structure, the Henley primary school got to enjoy a close involvement in its construction right from the beginning.

Tim Hoskins said: “The children have thoroughly enjoyed being involved with the process right from the start when Professor Farrelly, Dr Taylor and their architecture students visited the school to gather ideas. The discussion inspired our pupils and created a real buzz around the project. The progress of the structure has been keenly followed by the children, and its presence on our site has shown that their ideas and visions can become a reality.”

Tim also praised the structure for helping to emphasise the school’s ongoing focus on nature and environmental issues.

“We are a school community that cares greatly about local and larger environmental issues.

“Working outside helps to not only bring the wonder of nature into the classroom, but it also brings ongoing environmental concerns to the forefront of our children’s minds and prepares them for the challenge ahead.”

Having hosted so many stimulating interactions already, the Outdoor Classroom will continue to provide an inspiring physical space that brings people together to share ideas, learn, collaborate and ultimately, make a positive difference to the local community.