I first heard of Cool Canvas after I had delivered a conference in Bolton. I got an email from a delegate to say that they had had a brilliant creative artist come in and completely transform their outdoor space into a fantastic learning environment.
It seems that that setting were not alone, as I am seeing and hearing lots more on my travels about the high quality work and the creative ideas that Oliver and his team are spreading through our outdoor environments.
Although there is loads of info and inspirational photos on the Cool Canvas website. I have manages to persuade Oliver to take some time out of his busy schedule to write me a quick guest blog post and share some of the work that he has done.
What we do
Design and install bespoke play areas using natural materials.
How we came to making play areas:
As a child my parents fell on hard times financially. After losing our home and all worldly possessions we we're lucky enough to move to a rented old farm house. The farm house sat within hundreds of acres of land with a mile long crumbled old dirt track entrance. The house itself had been vandalised and as a result had 20ft high security mesh fencing around the perimeter. To other potential viewers it looked like hell on earth, but to my family it was our opportunity pull together, to explore space and develop our skills and passion for creating outside environments.
We had little money so everything we created was from resources we found within the woodlands and surrounding grounds. We made tree houses, forts with connecting walkways, den spaces, watch towers, mud kitchens, a stable for a horse which had been abandoned on our door step... the list goes on. We started to develop a bond with nature in what was our own magical word with no limits on outdoor play.
Who Works With Us?
Me: Oliver Wotherspoon - artist by trade.
My dad Richard, who is the landscaper and project manager.
My brother Harry, who is the tree surgeon.
Water Play and Investigation
What we provide:
We don't supply off the shelf play products. We create unique environment that act as a magical platform for children and staff to transform into whatever they want.
We use treated and green timber, planting and loose surfaces to make zones for climbing, digging, water, mixing, mark making, transition the list goes on. I work with the staff and children to work out a design; if the children want to help with the installation of the play area then we arrange workshops.
At the end of the project I play in the area with the children and staff mainly to give some ideas for the potential use of the space and how they can develop it further as their own unique play experiences emerge.
Build and Dig
Limitless play opportunities creates inspired and happy staff = inspired and happy children.
The draw backs
- Maintenance is my biggest hang up. Settings need to factor in a monthly maintenance budget if considering a natural play area. We make sure we do a 12 month maintenance contract as part of a development.
- Caretakers - don't get my dad started on caretakers!
For more information about Cool Canvas you can visit our website by clicking here. I hope you have enjoyed looking at some of the work that we do. We aim to inspire children to be highly engaged and creative learners outdoors and it would be great to come and inspire some of yours!
If it makes you want to climb inside the screen and have a go, then you know it must be good stuff!
Thanks to Oliver for sharing some fantastic ideas.
Have a lovely Bank Holiday weekend...