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Incorporating both regular and special education within a shared schoolyard environment

We have created a stunning communal area at KindCentrum Bekkerveld's new school building. This shared space successfully brings together students from both regular and special education. The square boasts a range of exciting facilities, including a freerun parkour, soccer field, jungle gym, and more. These amenities cater to children of all ages and abilities, ensuring a fun and engaging experience for everyone involved.

Heerlen, The Netherlands
2023
Lappset Yalp The Netherlands
2 min

Five partners, one building

St. Tarcisius elementary school and St. Catherine, special needs school, have always been neighbours. When both school buildings required renovation, merging them into one building made sense. Now, along with the child day care, out-of-school care, playgroup, and the administrative office of INNOVO, they are all housed in the beautifully renovated old HTS building.

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Regular and special education live side by side and with each other

A new building naturally comes with a fantastic schoolyard that caters to children from both regular and special education. Maud Deckers, the principal of St. Tarcisius, explains, "We have developed a shared vision with St. Catherine that guides our actions. We learn, live, and play TOGETHER within the building. While we engage in various activities collectively, we remain two distinct schools. Each floor is divided into multiple units, where students from both St. Tarcisius and Catharina come together. Additionally, children from both schools enjoy playing in the square."

Experts working together

To create an exceptional schoolyard design, the schools enlisted a working group consisting of experts, such as a motor remedial teacher and a movement specialist. "It was invaluable to involve individuals with their respective expertise. Previously, I had solely relied on aesthetics, which proved insufficient. As part of our preliminary research, we visited other schools to discern effective and ineffective approaches. I highly recommend this to everyone," Maud stated. Following this research, Lappser Yalp was approached to undertake the challenge of designing a square that would facilitate inclusive play for all children. It was a unique task to create a square that would cater to the needs of all five partners. "Thanks to Lappset Yalp's expertise, comprehensive guidance, and innovative design, we now have a splendid square where children of all abilities can engage in play," Maud expressed with gratitude.

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Zone layouts from rough to calm

The design of the schoolyard takes into consideration both gross and fine motor skills. Additionally, the square is organized in a way that allows for a seamless transition between active and quiet play areas. This ensures that children with different preferences, whether it be playing soccer or sitting peacefully on a bench, can engage in activities that suit their individual desires. By providing multiple zones, each child is afforded the opportunity to play in their own unique way.

Less conflict, more fun and challenge

No further investments were made in playground equipment at the old schoolyard due to the anticipated move to KindCentrum. Maud mentioned that the lack of challenging equipment led to minor disputes among the children. However, with the new square, this issue has been completely resolved. The schoolyard is now utilized throughout the entire school day, with two classes occupying the square every three-quarters of an hour from 9 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. With nearly 600 students divided into 25 groups, they take turns enjoying outdoor activities throughout the day. Maud expressed that there are abundant options for all the children, including quiet seating, games, climbing, soccer, sliding, and tumbling, ensuring there's something for everyone.

Due to its versatility, the square is appropriate for all age groups, allowing different grades to play together. Previously, grades 7 and 8 would often be outside simultaneously, resulting in intense competition. However, we observed that when combined with other grades, such as group 8 with group 5, the dynamics of play changed significantly. This is why we encourage these new combinations. The play equipment caters to all ages, facilitating harmonious play among children. Older children engage in quieter play and foster collaboration. Meanwhile, younger children learn and grow through their interactions with their older peers. Witnessing this development is truly remarkable. Undoubtedly, the square has become a resounding success, as affirmed by Maud.

Child Center Bekkerveld | Heerlen, The Netherlands

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