The Dolphin School – Flexible and diverse natural play within a challenging urban space

Client Type: Education
Location: Bristol

Client brief:

The Dolphin School engaged TouchWood to improve a challenging playground area with a diverse range of engaging but flexible play activities.

The existing playground area was a complex space with a very high usage demand from over 400 children. With a hard tarmac surface, the area was a challenging shape and enclosed on all sides by school buildings, creating an irregular-shaped courtyard area. The school were keen to keep the central space clear for organised games like football and tennis, but also wanted to provide a range of varied yet flexible behavioural play activities and social spaces around the edges of the area.

To accommodate funding availability, the brief specified two phases for the work; one for as soon as possible and the second for completion when further budget is released.

Design Response:

To accommodate the school’s requirement for their play area to be delivered in two phases due to funding availability, TouchWood produced an overall masterplan design as well as phased design plans. This bespoke, phased design approach provides a cohesive overall design whilst ensuring that the initial phase delivers the best play value possible.

 As part of the first phase, TouchWood created a several interconnected behavioural play areas that made the best use of the existing infrastructure on the site whilst also offering a wide variety and type of play activity. The settings were designed to support the school’s teaching approach of enquiry-led learning by offering the opportunity for flexible and adaptable play.

Covered areas were created, including water play and sandpit areas for budding scientists to explore and combine materials and a stage and storytelling area for those interested in the performing arts and puppetry to express themselves. We also included a den building area complete with den building store packed with loose parts and portable den frames to enable children to construct their own imaginative playscapes. And, not ignoring the important fact that children love to climb to height, explore and experiment with gravity, we added a bespoke climbing tower to offer plenty of opportunity for these physical activity impulses.

Principal of The Dolphin School, Shelley Flanagan, said, “We have a very complex site but TouchWood implemented some really creative designs. Since the new equipment has been installed, we’ve noticed a huge difference at playtime; Children are much happier and really enjoy the new equipment”.#

If you're interested in improving your school's playground, contact us today to discuss your requirements. 

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Whatever the budget, every job goes through the same meticulous process and we take equal care over the installation of a single swing as we do for an entire playground.

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