ELC children set to benefit from outdoor learning in Oban and Mull

A Hobbit house is just one of the exciting additions to the new outdoor spaces.

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Hobbit houses, campfires and water walls are just some of the fun outdoor learning activities that children will get to experience as a result of Argyll and Bute’s new Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) settings.

Willowview in Oban, run by Argyll and Bute Council, welcomed its first children this week.

The former day centre and care home has been transformed by landscape architects who were appointed by the council to create spaces for high activity; quiet time; socialising; investigation; creativity; and nature.

To meet this brief, the designers developed a ‘traditional’ play space with hard surfacing for ride-ons, marking and ball games, water play, sensory planting and a ‘stage’. This is a standalone area, but a path also leads up through a quiet space and green tunnel to a high level ‘hidden garden’ with playhouse, sandpit, slide and scramble net to the lower level and a sheltered look-out with a view across the roof-tops.

The outdoor setting also has a natural area which offers future use for Forest School activities. In addition to the extensive external areas there is a partially covered internal courtyard which forms the parent entrance and a sensory breakout space.

Council-appointed architects also designed an outdoor area at Salen Primary’s existing ELC unit which maximises the limited external space available.

Breakout areas have been developed as social spaces for science/experimental play, gardening, an outdoor classroom and sensory areas. The new area also has a ride-on ‘circuit’ and a speaking tube which connects the two Early Years gardens, as well as outdoor chalk boards, music, mirrors and a water wall.

The two new English and Gaelic medium spaces will be completed this autumn.

Councillor Yvonne McNeilly, Policy Lead for Education, said: ‘We have brought life to spaces that had been forgotten or neglected and placed them at the heart of learning for our youngest learners.

‘These sustainable spaces provide a wealth of opportunities for intergenerational activities, enhancing community cohesion and helping us build inclusive, resilient communities whilst delivering high quality ELC.

‘I would like to thank everyone involved for the tremendous effort they have put in over the years to get us where we are today. I truly believe we are leading the way with outdoor education in Argyll and Bute, paving the way for our children and young people to have the best start in life.’