Friday, 12 August 2022

Designer creates outdoor classroom

A MOTHER has designed and built an outdoor classroom at her son’s school.

A MOTHER has designed and built an outdoor classroom at her son’s school.

Victoria Willson-Copland, 31, turned a neglected courtyard at Charvil Parish School in Park Lane into a learning space for pupils, including her six-year-old son Jake.

The classroom has plant displays, a collection of tree stumps for children to sit on and a hopscotch area. 

Mrs Willson-Copland lives in East Park Farm Drive with husband Martin, 39, a director at a recruitment company, Jake, son Harry, two, and 13-year-old stepson Matthew.

She is studying creative design at Oxford Brookes University after leaving a job in finance and wanted to put the skills she has already learned to good use. 

She appealed for donations of materials from residents and businesses.

Mrs Willson-Copland said: “It’s all eco-friendly and everything is donated, recycled or upcycled.

“The school had this area with just pebbles and as I’m doing my degree I offered to do something with it. I went to a meeting at the school where we gave our ideas and the deputy head mentioned putting benches in the garden.

“I though that as it was such a big area you could do a lot better than just benches and turn it into an outdoor classroom.

“They had the space but no funds to do anything with it, so we raised the money to put in some play  equipment and I said I’d use the skills I’d learned from my course to do something on a budget of zero.

“I put messages on Facebook and other message boards and had a really good response so I’ve been all around collecting things. People have been giving us things, which saves them from being dumped. ”

Among the donated items were wood, tyres and plants and local garden centres Hare Hatch Sheeplands, Wyevale in Hare Hatch and Oakland Plant Nursery in Arborfield all became involved.

Mrs Willson-Copland is hoping the space can be used to teach children about nature and design as well as basic maths and science.

She said: “The kids can sit out there for lessons. We’ve put up height charts, thermometers and a clock so they can learn different things. We are also looking to do a little area of plants that will attract insects.

“The children have helped a lot and each class has spent up to an hour painting the tyres or planting flowers. The caretakers and teachers have helped too.

“It has been a really nice project for everyone to get involved with.

“Now the children can do their own projects there, like planting something every year.

“The children were all really excited about it being finished — they would knock on the windows and ask to come outside. They want to touch everything because it’s a novelty for them. There’s lots for them to look at.”

Mrs Willson-Copland says the project has helped improve her design skills and she may even make use of the courtyard for her degree.

She said: “I’ve got three projects on the go but I keep coming back to this one because it’s the one I’ve enjoyed the most.

“I’m looking to design spaces and do something like a youth centre when I graduate, so it’s good experience.”

The school, which is run by the Piggott School in Wargrave, opened in 2013. Initially it catered for 27 reception class children but it is hoped to have a full roll of 210 by 2020.

Mrs Willson-Copland said: “There’s a really good community feel in Charvil anyway and having a new school is brilliant for making friends.

“It takes two minutes to walk to school in the morning and everyone knows each other. 

“The school is perfect and that’s why I wanted to do something for it.”

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