Since late 2020, St James’ School in Brighton has undergone a sustainable transformation, seeing their playground turn into a new Heritage Garden.

Through the hard work of parents and friends, old artificial surfaces have been replaced with a natural wonderland.

Dave Ferrier, a school parent and arborist, turned to his creative skills during the 2020 lock-down to design, lead and construct a showcase of sustainability. After learning at home, students were welcomed back to school to a new sensory garden, made from natural materials like wood, fallen tree branches and river stones.

Playspaces to feed the imagination were linked by an "adventure trail" through a dry creek bed hiding a crocodile and other friends. And for teachers, a new outdoor classroom around a "campfire" was constructed.

The herb garden and first stage of the Urban Food Forest soon followed, with herbs, tomatoes and peppers planted to thrive over summer. Following a student presentation at Port Phillip EcoCentre’s Annual School Sustainability Festival in November, hard work over the summer resulted in eight more garden beds ready for planting plus a new rustic log-sided sandpit, just for fun.

‘The looks on the children’s faces when returning to school were simply priceless. It’s been so rewarding helping the amazing teachers of St James, hearing the imaginative stories from playtime and having some children taste their very first organically grown tomatoes’, Dave said.

Once an area of worn and weathered artificial grass, concrete and weed beds, the outdoor play spaces have been developed into something truly special. The students and teachers are enjoying the fruits of hard work.

Principal Brendan Flanagan said students and teachers were thrilled to see the new and engaging playground. 'A great deal of hard work has really transformed our outside area into a living educational space.’

The next stage of the project will include a new "bush tucker" garden developed with guidance and education from the Boon Wurrung community and an outdoor pizza oven made from recycled bricks.