Columbia Grange School
Columbia Grange School approached Sunderland City Council's in-house Landscape Architects to implement an ambitious idea; to create a sensory maze garden for two to eleven year olds with severe learning difficulties and/or autism.
The story started when the School commissioned the Landscape team to implement an
adventure play area on an unused corner of the school grounds. This incorporated natural
elements to promote cognitive, social and motor play. On the back of this success, the school wanted to continue their outdoor development. The brief for phase two was to create a stimulating safe learning environment, with a strong emphasis on natural materials
Through consultation with key members of staff and parents, a maze concept was
developed. Like any maze, the Landscape Architect designed the scheme radiating from a central hub, creating a series of flexible pocket spaces to encourage varied activities from the schools challenging curriculum.
The Landscape Architect worked with Handspring Design Ltd to develop multi functional
outdoor structures with different textures, colours and form. An enclosed cordwood roundhouse became the destination point, with a series of mature hedge lined footpaths leading to it. A pergola with coloured perspex offered rest and shade as children make their journey through the maze.
Colour and sound stimulation were main drivers in the scheme. This was delivered through varied paving, natural stone walls, sound equipment and mature planting to create an instant effect and provide a safe environment to explore nature.
Trevor Atkinson and Co Ltd constructed the hard and soft landscape works. From design to implementation the project was completed within a six month period.
"The area that has been created has delivered everything we hoped for. The designer has worked in partnership with the school, to create an area that is not only aesthetically pleasing but also offers a safe, motivating and exciting area for pupils with Autism Spectrum.The design has skilfully created an number of learning zones that are used by teachers and pupils on daily basis to enhance learning and develop of skills throughout the curriculum- whether it is by turning the ‘Hobbit House’ into the 3 bears house for a literacy activity , or collecting minibeasts for scientific enquiry. It also offers parents a safe and motivating area to bring their children both after school and during school holidays."
Deputy Head, Columbia Grange School, Washington