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Ireland’s first ‘nurture garden’ to showcase at Bloom 2018

Students of Phoenix Park Specialist School in preparation for Ireland’s first nurture garden, which is being designed for Bloom 2018 by Sanctuary Synthetics. Photograph: Aidan Crawley.
Students of Phoenix Park Specialist School in preparation for Ireland’s first nurture garden, which is being designed for Bloom 2018 by Sanctuary Synthetics. Photograph: Aidan Crawley.

The garden will showcase the use of artificial grass in a school setting, specifically for children with severe specialist needs by drawing a direct relationship between the nurturing of plants, fruit, flowers, and seeds and the nurturing of a child through their early and formative years.

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18 May 2018 | 0

Ireland’s first nurture garden for children from the Phoenix Park Specialist School is being designed for Bloom 2018 by Sanctuary Synthetics.

Entitled “The Sanctuary Nurture Garden”, it is based around one simple idea – a heart shaped mound/sunken outdoor classroom designed specifically for children with specialist educational needs.

The Phoenix Park School is an award-winning specialist placement primary school for pupils aged 4-12 years old, who care for children with severe emotional, behavioural, and mental health difficulties.

The Sanctuary Nurture Garden, which is to be relocated to the adjacent school grounds only a few hundred metres away after Bloom 2018, is essentially a safe outdoor learning space.

The Sanctuary Nurture Garden

The garden showcases the use of artificial grass in a school setting, specifically for children with severe specialist needs by drawing a direct relationship between the nurturing of plants, fruit, flowers and seeds, and the nurturing of a child through their early and formative years.

The-Sanctuary-Nurture-Garden1

Photo: Bloom.

The design is created around a heart-shaped mound which has a sunken outdoor classroom at its centre. As well as being a self-contained functional outdoor classroom, it is also a social space and playground, representing the transition from inside to outside.

Complete with teaching thrones, the classroom is surrounded by multisensory planting, allowing children to connect with nature on a safe soft artificial surface.

Mature woodland planting surrounds the school comprising mature oak, chestnut, and birches at the top end of the heart-shaped mound; complemented by native planting based on sight, smell, taste, sound, and touch on the bottom half of the mound.

Garden Elements

Dominic O’Donohoe from Sanctuary Synthetics and designer of the garden outlined elements that will be within the Bloom 2018 garden and which will be transported back to the school afterwards: “In front of a photographic reproduction illustrating the rich architectural heritage of the original granite Phoenix Park School, built in 1848 by Decimus Burton, will be a heart shaped mound forming the nurturing teaching and learning space. Finished with Sanctuary Synthetic artificial grass, it will allow pupils to safely lie, roll, or look up at the sky.

The-Sanctuary-Nurture-Garden3

Photo: Bloom.

“The unique boundary will be an original wrought iron 4’ 4” deer fence (kindly provided by the OPW Park Superintendent) designed to protect the wooded areas of the Phoenix Park from the resident fallow deer herd. The fence serves as a harsh and industrial analogy, quite the opposite of the enclosed nurturing space inside, providing sanctuary and safety for all who learn within.

“Essentially an outdoor social space and natural playground, a transition from inside to outside, complete with granite and oak-backed teaching thrones using materials reclaimed from the Phoenix Park. The garden will be surrounded by multi-sensory planting allowing children to safely connect with nature.

“The garden will also use additional oak timber, large reclaimed Wicklow granite blocks, and arches as well as cobble comb all sourced from the Phoenix Park.

“When designing the garden I took inspiration from a classroom wall inside the school which features a large mural of a tree with the school’s six guiding values; Play, Listen, Try, Learn, Take Part, and Safe.

“It was really important to us that the garden would incorporate all those values and help to guide the pupils, through the use of nurture, back towards mainstream education and ultimately social inclusion”, said O’Donohoe.

Promoting nurturing activities

Principal Teacher of the school, Matt Swain, is key to the development and delivery of the promotion of nurturing activities for the benefit of his pupils.

Matt Swain (L) principal of Phoenix Park School and Dominic O'Donohoe (R), garden designer with Sanctuary Synthetics.

Matt Swain (L) principal of Phoenix Park School and Dominic O’Donohoe (R), garden designer with Sanctuary Synthetics.

“Participation in Bloom will not only raise awareness of the benefits and values of having a nurture garden resource in our school in the Phoenix Park, but also the key elements will be recreated back on the school site which means existing nurturing activities may now be taken safely outside of the confines of the school building for the first time.

“Outdoor teaching and learning opportunities such as gardening, forest school activities, story time, nurture-based play, a nurture and sensory trail, and foraging. . . can now happen all safely inside the sanctuary of the school grounds”, he said.

“It is important to note that the formal outdoor classroom lends itself also to taking lessons outside on days that the weather is fair. This may have a dramatic effect on reducing stress, anxiety, and triggers for behaviours that may challenge our pupils”.

Bloom 2018 begins on May 31 and will come to a close on June 4.

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