Award winner: best landscaped outdoor learning area

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St Mary MacKillop Catholic Primary School.18 November 2019

St Mary MacKillop Catholic Primary School, Bannockburn, has established its identity and values, and won an architectural award in the process.

The school won the ‘Landscaping/Outdoor Learning Area’ category for Victoria in the 15th Learning Environments Awards, which are held each year to celebrate the standards of educational planning and design, and to showcase best practice in the industry.

St Mary MacKillop Catholic Primary School opened in 2018 after taking over the site vacated by Bannockburn Primary School in late 2017. The new design is the result of many master-planning workshops involving school stakeholders, the parish and local community.

‘The site had been let go and the main entry was hard to locate from the street. Inside, an ugly toilet block dominated the playground space, blocking the line of sight for teachers on yard duty and giving the school a closed-in feel’, said Principal Anthony Drill.

‘We remodelled the school’s entry to create a welcoming space. In a sense we “gave” the land around the school’s entry to the community so that families, parishioners and local groups could sit and take a rest in landscaped gardens if they wanted.’

The fresh and inclusive look continues into the school’s heart, where three new outside learning environments take pride of place now that the eyesore toilet block has been demolished. Children have equitable access to landscaped and distinct play areas, and are able to safely explore and learn outside.

‘We have a play philosophy and we encourage our students to be in the natural environment so, instead of having a plastic and steel prefabricated playground, we have gardens and natural spaces for the children to dig, build and climb’, said Mr Drill. ‘Watching the children play and create in these areas is wonderful – the design has exceeded our expectations!’