Skip to main content

Conference 22



15 Nov 2022
Stage 2

Who doesn’t want a slide in their school? Ruaridh Nicol, Holmes Miller & Andrew Brown, West Dunbartonshire Council 

We will discuss West Dunbartonshire’s refreshing approach to a learner-centred education model focusing on fun learning environments.

A collaborative working relationship fostered a culture where challenging the perceived norm was encouraged, constantly asking ‘why’? A culture that stripped back to the fundamental requirements for ‘how’ and ‘where’ we learn, encouraging the team to get creative with learning spaces. A culture of collective creative enjoyment.

A ‘learning ladder’ concept allows learning to grow across various levels as the specific needs of pupils develop. ‘Campfires’, ‘STEM caves’ and ‘reading nooks’ all conjure images of a different type of learning space! Wrap this all into a 3 storey facility with direct access to stimulating rooftop terraces with teaching zones and play equipment, including a slide linking the external terraces, and the staff and pupils have the opportunity to be directly involved in creating their own learning environment each day, developing creative ways of using space, collaborating between classes and realising where learning can take them.

An exemplary model of collaboration and consultation utilising immersive technology, engendered a culture of ownership from everyone well before the doors opened easing the transition to the new environment, catering for the needs of all – from early years, primary, children with additional support needs and adult users of the built environment.

Learning Points:

  • How to create a culture of innovation and sharing of ideas.
  • How to design spaces that maximise opportunities for task based learning
  • How to use visualisation to avoid surprises at the end of a project.

Duthie Park & Hazlehead Park: Weaving People and Place through Outdoor Early Learning and Childcare – Karla Mennie, Aberdeen City Council

Outdoor play and practice have long been known and recognised to contribute significantly to wellbeing and better outcomes for children. The Scottish Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) Expansion programme has added further value to the outdoors’ role in early childhood with its drive to incorporate high quality outdoor pedagogy and practice across ELC settings. This also provided Aberdeen City Council with the platform to launch their first two outdoor ELC provisions – Duthie Park and Hazlehead Outdoor Nurseries. We will be exploring the benefits of nature pedagogy using these two settings as case studies.

However, we also want to highlight that a key part of the success so far with these projects has been centred around an ethos of nurture, support and togetherness, helping communities come together for the benefit of all - people and place. Working with children alone may deliver a good ELC approach, but one that takes the family and wider community on board extends and deepens the impact of the service and uses a lens of sustainability.

This presentation will give an overview of the design and vision of our first outdoor nurseries, what this looks like in practice, the benefits reaped by its diverse stakeholders and ambitions for the future. Participants will be encouraged to consider how they too can join our aspiration in making the outdoors a place where children, families, communities and nature connect, a place where all generations and life can flourish.


Yunming Thomson, Project Director - jmarchitects
Ruaridh Nicol, Associate - Holmes Miller
Andrew Brown, Senior Education Officer: Policy, Performance & Resources - West Dunbartonshire Council
Karla Mennie, Outdoor Early Learning & Childcare Manager - Aberdeen City Council
Scottish Government Logo

Event Partner


Sponsor Partners


Event Supporters