An Outdoor Classroom


In spring of 2016 Percy Centennial School Council in Warkworth, Ontario was pursing the idea of an outdoor, green alternative to the traditional school playground. Their hope was to build an area where they could extend the teaching environment to include a quiet, safe outdoor space and at the same time give students a place to play and relax in a natural setting. The school had already installed an eco garden on the west end of the grounds, so this green playground was a perfect addition and something the primary students were going to enjoy for many years. 

Percy Centennial's principal was enthusiastic and school board approval came swiftly, plans began for two tunnels and a dome. A suitable site was found, with reasonably level ground, close to the original play area.  Since water is essential in the first year of planting, it was important that the site also had access to a hydrant for once a week, deep watering and mulch to help retain moisture in the soil. As it turned out, the need for water was far more important than anyone had imagined, since that summer Ontario experienced one of the worst droughts in it's history. Thankfully, school council chair Cherie Whalen was on site weekly, making sure the willow received plenty of water and the payoff was huge...almost 6ft growth! 


On the first day of the build landscape fabric was applied, then the willow rods and soaker hose were installed. On day two the students, teachers and volunteers helped to weave the rods, secured them with ties and covered the area with a thick layer of mulch. 


A snow fence was installed around the perimeter of the planting area to protect the structures while the willow rods began to root and grow. Each week the willow was given a deep watering with a soaker hose. Then all that was required was to wait for it to grow...and boy did it grow! 


In September when students returned to school, we were very pleased to see lush, green growth thanks to diligent watering by parent volunteers. The students were anxious to have access to their new playground and a date was set to remove the fences and get weaving! It was a wild and crazy weaving party that day, so much excitement! They had waited so long to get their hands on the willow and now the day had come to have some fun. 

As the living willow grows each year, volunteers will continue to weave and prune to keep the structures healthy and in good shape.  Bravo to everyone at Percy Centennial for such a great effort! We look forward to watching their outdoor playground mature and flourish in years to come.