Working with local communities to create amazing play spaces is essential to our mission. This process, which we call ‘Building for Real’, involves hands-on workshops facilitated for young people across all age groups and abilities. The aim is to enable them to prepare and construct their own design features whilst learning about traditional craft techniques and gaining an appreciation for practical skills.

The Building for Real initiative began with our founder, Joe Cooper. Before starting the company, Joe conducted educational workshops for people with no experience working with wood. His passion for teaching and community involvement laid the foundation for what our company stands for today.

Recently we created a new playground for Paignton Zoo. They were keen to involve the local community in the project and took us up on the offer of a Building for Real day. We invited students from Churston Ferrers School for a day dedicated to practical learning.

The main task was the construction of a ladder for the wooden play tower from robust chestnut tree wood. We used traditional green woodworking techniques including shaving horses and traditional benches which were used to hold the wood in place while it was being worked on.

The new ladder, a product of the students’ hard work and creativity, now stands tall and proud at Paignton Zoo. It serves as the principal access route to the wooden play tower. The students from Churston Ferrers School can be proud of what they have achieved, and everyone involved in their community now has a sense of attachment to the play area. They will no doubt look after it and spread the news about their memorable hands-on learning experience.

A large group of children standing around a wooden ladder.
Joe Cooper with the students from Churston Ferrers Grammar School

Bruce Nisbett, Head of Design and Technology at Churston Ferrers Grammar School says:

“Great day, Joe and Charlie were awesome. It reminded me why I like teaching! Thanks again for putting the workshop on, it was a blast and students still talk about it.”

We have a long-standing tradition of running Building for Real and workshop events as part of our projects. Over the last 21 years, we have used these to support key stakeholders to gain real early engagement, lifelong memories and hopefully a love of woodworking.

If you’re inspired by the story of Paignton Zoo and want to bring this enriching experience to your project, enquire about our “Building for Real” sessions today.