Marnebek School Sensory Garden Receives 2016 Educational Facility Planning Award

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Jeavons was awarded the 2016 Educational Facility Planning Award for the Marnebek School Sensory Garden from the Victorian chapter of the Association for Learning Environments .

The rationale for the development and the design of the space was to create a space that provided sensory opportunities to enhance the students learning and academic outcomes. The space was to provide a variety of sensory experiences through touch, sound, sight along with the integration of gross and fine motor opportunities.

The sensory garden has created many opportunities for the students to build on their social skills and improve their abilities to interact with others. The space has become a tremendous environment for teachers and the therapy team to implement the ‘Learn To Play’ program.

The facility is used twice a week for all age groups both for sensory integration opportunities and structured lessons on various components of the space. One session is facilitated by the Occupational Therapist, the other session is facilitated by the classroom teacher. Students are also able to access the space when required for redirection and social development.


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Interactive mural with sensory and musical components integrated into the design loosely referencing the underwater design by Alison Lester in her book ‘Imagine’. Features include a treasure chest, lift-up flaps, rotating & sliding musical instruments, sand and rock boulders with a living vertical wall of herbs.

Read below for the wonderful citation from the Jury at Learning Environments:

“The creation of a dynamic and powerful learning environment is simultaneously challenged and enabled by the context. As a specialist and Special Development School, Marnebek demanded careful consideration of the learning context, the site and its integration with the existing school facilities and program. The panel considered this project to be an outstanding addition to the facilities of the school and the interpretation of the opportunities of a Sensory Garden.

The broad range of student needs at Marnebek represents a complex scenario with an equally complex resolution. The success of the project rests in part on the impressive consultation phase that drew on specialist knowledge in developing principles and specific design features. The inclusion of places for energized play, mild stimulation and quiet time allows the space to cater for a range of students and a diverse set of experiences.

The use of materials is a strength of the sensory garden. The various materials have been chosen for their properties and enhanced through design features such as curves, bumps, verticality and visual impact. Colour has been used through planting and introduced features. The inclusion of natural and artificial finished is a highlight. The design incorporates sustainability as a feature through materials use to achieve low embodied energy, manageable use of water and flexible all-weather usage.

The sensory garden provides an extremely important facility in the school for the educational purposes and for student wellbeing and management. The project is a demonstration of sensitivity and intelligence. It is testament to the power of ideas and the capacity for good design to enhance educational experiences.”