Community stories: 21 January 2019
The Oxley Primary School in north-east Victoria wanted to ensure it could make the best use of its outdoor areas, with a strong environmental science program. The school lacked an undercover outdoor area big enough to facilitate a learning space for a whole classroom of children.
The school’s own Sun Smart policy dictated that ‘Organised outdoor activities would be held in shaded areas wherever possible in Terms 1 and 4’, and so an underutilised north-facing area that was well connected to vegetable gardens, basketball courts, the chicken shed, and the gardening area was targeted for a makeover.
It was hoped that with the installation of a shade sail, the area could be used for outdoor learning and as a lunch area for the whole school – around 70 students. With the school also the location of a vacation care program out of school terms, a local playgroup and the North East Roller Derby Group, added shade would be a welcome addition for a large section of the community.
A $4,000 Gardiner Dairy Foundation Working in Dairy Communities Small Grants Program grant funded the shade sail, with a local contractor employed to complete the work.
The shade sail created a new outdoor learning area allowing children to connect with natural elements and diversify their outdoor experience, and the use of outdoor areas for teaching improved student learning along with a range of indicators, cognitive and both physical and mental wellbeing.
The school children were also able to use the area to sit and enjoy their lunch, which was a considerable improvement over a rotunda that was previously being used at the front of the school on a busy and noisy road. The adjacent classroom also reported reduced glare through the windows in the summer months and made the room more pleasant to work in.