MPS Grounds Master Plan ~ Brief & Community Consultation

“The Schoolyard is a Place to Make Friends”

MPSMoreland Primary School (MPS) is a small, growing state school.   There are 300 students and enrolments have increased by 100% over the last 5 years. Parent involvement has increased impressively over the last few years but we also face the challenge of a massive loss in Equity funding.

Our yard is currently a mish-mash of crumbling woodwork, forgotten corners, obsolete structures with sub-optimal usage, and wonderful new projects (many parent-implemented) popping up like mushrooms.

Our first school fete (Nov 2015) has provided an opportunity to invest in the planning & first stage of a thorough grounds redevelopment process.

We are excited to be working with Carol McConville of Xylem who is a highly experienced playscape architect whose work seems to encapsulate the feel and ideas gathered during our community consultation process.  Previous projects for Xylem include:


MPS’s Brief to Xylem:

  • Moreland Primary School (MPS) would like to accept Xylem’s quote laid out in your Masterplan Design Proposal to us.
  • MPS parents have raised $40k to cover planning activities and implement the first phase of the Masterplan.  We hope to raise a further $20k in 2016 for phase two, and another $40k by the end of 2017 in order to finance a third phase.
  • Please identify elements in the plan which we might be able to do more cheaply, and therefore sooner, with direct parental involvement in the form of working bees.  We are also interested in any discrete elements which might be suitable candidates for community or government grant applications.
  • All external areas of school property are up for consideration. Please feel free to replace the existing quadrangle/garden-beds with mounds and tunnels, move the chickens, re-purpose that weird bins area, create a sense of entrance from the carpark side,  or whatever else is required. We are happy to change our “lining up” areas and any other habits in order to make possible the best masterplan we can have.
  • The little edge spaces along De Carle Street (western side of the school) are available to be included in the masterplan, along with every other external space.  There might be some way in which themes from inside the schoolyard could (cheaply) be echoed in some of those tiny external spaces to make school seem more inviting from the outside.
  • As indicated in the school map (above), we do not expect the astroturf or main soccer oval to change much. (Though some low wall seating or other edge-hugging feature might be on the cards.)  These areas seem to be pretty good active play spaces, and we cannot imagine that moving/altering them to achieve the same thing would be within our budget.
  •  Parents have recently built a corner outdoor stage, a chicken coop, and a twister board, as well as purchasing an outdoor chess set. We hope these elements can be incorporated/improved in some way.  Outdoor storage for the chess pieces would help. In fact, outdoor storage for some sports equipment or a crate for Loose Parts play items could also be useful.
  • The prep-enclave is a little courtyard right outside the prep area doors where prep parents gather at drop-off and pick-up times, which encourages the close sense of community that prep parents feel. This area might be a place to create an “outdoor classroom” by installing a split ring of low wall seating?
  • The fenced-off vege-garden area outside the PlayGroup room may soon be required to extend the kindergarten, which has applied for a grant to do so.
  • Safety vs Adventure generates a lot of discussion at our school. We dearly want our kids to have adventure and exploration in their schoolyard, but we don’t feel qualified to make bold decisions.  We trust that our Landscape Architect is familiar with all the relevant standards and will provide plans which allow us to confidently create the school yard we really want.
  • We look forward to our school yard being transformed by an interesting mix of pipes, mounds, low walls, stepping stones, musical elements, shade structures and things which we haven’t even imagined yet.


Community ideas

The following pictures and ideas are not requirements of the brief, but are saved here for inspiration and insight into our school community’s thinking.

Twister board at Coburg Lake

Twister board at Coburg Lake

Earth bag wall (picture from Rose Street kindergarten in Brunswick)

Earth bag wall (Rose St kinder in Brunswick)


water!      (you’re dreaming guys)




"Bushland Reserve" in Coburg

“Bushland Reserve” in Coburg

physical challenge with problem solving

physical challenge with problem solving

can we have some fun shapes, please?

can we have some fun shapes, please?

how cool is that!?


shelter, quiet places to sit and talk or just sit alone & process

Theory of Loose Parts play

Theory of Loose Parts play


quiet corners to retreat to sometimes







From the working group looking at schoolyard ideas back in May…

We compiled this 17 page pdf: Outdoor Play  which includes the following 5 sample images

WG5  WG6   WG1   WG3   WG4

We also found this on the internet
It’s a 96 page pdf, but here are the ideas & features that we like:

To encourage exploratory and sensory play.
To have an extra ‘outdoor classroom’ for all grades.
To make playtimes more interesting/give options for those less sporty

Mounds/different levels
Pits (sand/mud)
Water courses
Dry creek path
Tree stumps
Play box
Large, flat boulders/rocks (stepping stones)
Windey bamboo paths
Places to hide
Tunnels (large concrete pipes) to climb on and go though
Indigenous and native planting
Music wall

The grade 5&6 students gave their answers through a survey…

Full results here in a 5 page pdf: StudentSurvey-Grounds_Gr5-6

Favourite areas of the school currently include:

  • Downball Courts (a dozen mentions)
  • Soccer field/courts  (three dozen mentions)
  • play equipment/monkey bars, chickens, trees

Sample of the 5-6 favourite playgrounds outside of our school:

  • Harmony Park & scate park in Coburg
  • Shore Reserve
  • Somers Camp
  • West Coburg Football Club
  • Ghassen Park (Coburg)
  • Queen’s Park (Moonee Ponds)

Sample of their wishlist items:

  • we could have some things that spin (Merry-go-round?)
  • outdoor seating
  • gym
  • rope ladder
  • flying fox

Grade 1&2 students did some group brainstorming and some process writing…

Rides, slides, water & fairy gardens featured in their musings.  All paper submissions from grade one and two pupils have been given to the architect, but here are a couple of samples.

Gr1-2s-c  Gr1-2s-d  Gr1-2s-g Gr1-2s-h  Gr1-2s-i


From a parent…

My son has high functioning autism and we work with occ therapists on a sensory diet.  Playgrounds and the outdoors are marvellous for calming my son and helping him regulate his emotions.  It would be nice if all kids could have a play area that was catered for sensory play that help kids regulate anxiety, anger and feelings of overwhelm.  Examples of this:

– A designated calm space to help kids be by themselves when they need to re centre and process their thoughts and feelings (respite spot). Tunnels and confined spots that feel secure.  currently my son sits up the far end of the of school grounds under trees and behind the logs when he wants to be by himself.  It would be nice if there were better thought out respite areas for solitary play and small group play.

– gross motor challenges that require mental strategy – helps strengthen mind-body connection. Balancing beams/wires and obstacle courses. This kind of play is great for kids who get overwhelmed by their emotions and need some mental/physical challenge to calm their thoughts and feelings.

– a meeting place to facilitate communication and resolution between groups and individuals. like a rocky outcrop amongst trees, where kids can sit around in a circle and talk freely.  there’s a good one in queens park moon ponds, where all the kids meet together to talk widely amongst themselves. can’t find a picture of it unfortunately.

The link below goes into greater detail about sensory regulation in playgrounds.

From a parent…

  1. School grounds should be magical, adventurous, engaging with complexity, environmentally friendly and good fun for all ages i.e. not think playground only for the younger ones, as we all learn through movement and material encounters!
  2. Unfortunately there is not a favourite part of the School grounds at the moment.
  3. We quite like what they did at the Royal Park Nature Playground in Melbourne.

Although our grounds are quite small I think we could do a great job transforming them into a great space for/with the kids. It will be great if we could choose wood over plastic, explore the idea of how a playground would look thinking with non-euclidean geometrical spaces (I saw a post in your blog about hyperbolic geometry so I feel confident to mention this), leave a space for a kitchen garden for the kids, lots of climbing, hanging, balancing games, and also spaces for kids that prefer more quite environments as a cubby house or so. I also thought would be great to have a musical corner… (sorry…I got too excited!)

From a parent…

“…Firstly, I strongly believe that students should be allowed to climb the trees between the two sports fields. The trees are low and interesting, providing space for children to imagine rocket ships or jungle homes. Not allowing children in these trees is like putting a computer in front of them and then telling them not to look at it! The lack of alternatives in the school yard should be reason enough to allow tree based adventures.

Other simple ideas

– a tunnel embedded in a mound of earth (and grass) would introduce levels to an otherwise very flat landscape,

– using the vertical pipe fencing (between the playground and grass oval) as a base for weaving or constructing cubby houses,

– logs to create nooks and crannies – horizontal, vertical, angled, for that meandering behavior that is often the base of games and small scale interactive play

– bamboo poles for temporary structures and cloth, even if they were only brought out on Mondays (for example)….”

From a parent…

Very excited to be able to add my thoughts to the landscaping project. I’ll keep it short!

1. Maintenance, repair and duty of care should be a priority. Grounds are showing their age, old infrastructure like seats, fences are broken, splintered and concrete edges are uneven. It’s not sexy but this needs to be fixed, mended, replaced, painted.

2. There isn’t space to add more but I do like the idea of using what is already there. Like adding a rope climbing / traversing wall on an existing boundary fence or creating a water play zone on the side of a building .

Instead of the fence between the playground and oval?

Putting in steppers as garden edging to promote balance and challenge

Building forts, nests or platforms around existing trees to add varying heights and viewpoints

They have a great nest st Healesville sanctuary

2. Keep the grass but resow it. It’s the only open space at the school and should be kept to allow free play.

3. Create a lounge perhaps partially indoors? For grade 5/6 – somewhere for older kids to socialise, rest, view goings on, feel a little privacy. As the school population gets bigger it would be good for older kids to have their own ‘zone’ so they are not left to play in yard and avoid littler kids in the process.

4. Dress up the prep outdoor area. It’s seen better days..

5. Regular working bees to maintain the space? The grounds looked amazing after the last one. Maybe once a term would make it less work each time?

I hope that helps. I’ve probably blown the budget…

And a bunch of other thoughts, including…

Preference for non-allergy types since many popular indigenous ones e.g. callistemons provoke hay fever. I’ll bring them to the meeting, but yes we need low-level shrubs and mid-level. We already have big trees.
Succession planning for the big trees?
Do we need to plant trees now to eventually take over?
· rain garden – important for achieving school’s biodiversity certification

· lizard lounge with big rocks and a frog bog

· eco cubby house (fits in with Grade 6 energy module)

· indigenous cultural gardens (fits in with Grade 6 studies)

· new planting eg. medium size planting bordering grass area

· holding bay for waste and compost – divide litter into landfill, compost and recycling

This has probably already been covered but anyway…

1. Can we fix basic infrastructure so we don’t have to jump hoops to accomplish basic garden maintenance?

We have lost yet another “golden key” which lets us plug the hose into a tap to water the raised garden beds. Also the tank in the playgroup area only provides dribbles.

When first touring the school I was impressed with the attention paid to collecting rain water to irrigate gardens to grow food and teach kids about the cycle of nature and our reliance on it. However, the lack of basic fixtures around the school is making garden maintenance difficult. Also we don’t know if the tank next to the chook shed is collecting water and whether the irrigation system for the lawn makes use of it.

2. When we approve a project executed by volunteers, we should show respect for the work by supplying appropriate quality materials.

A case in point is the Twister. Four people worked on this for many hours over a number of days even mixing a hodge podge of colours to create vivid contrasting colours. Sadly, using left over water-based paint meant that even after a couple of weeks the game looked washed out.

I know this last point doesn’t relate to the meeting with the designer but I need to express it!

Increase bicycle parking
What about some of our balcony spaces?

  • the prep room has a back yard
  • the grade 1-2 area has a large balcony/garden
  • the grade 3-4 area has a long narrow balcony garden they walk past several times a day
  • there’s a massive unused balcony over the chickens

Potential to have some tie-in elements with the main yard in these spaces, perhaps?



This entry was posted in Project Management. Bookmark the permalink.