Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Early Learning Outdoor Childcare Renovations

Dufferin & Peel Regions

The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board (DPCDSB) is one of the largest and most diverse districts in Ontario, operating 149 Elementary and Secondary Catholic schools throughout Mississauga, Brampton, Caledon and Orangeville. In 2015 and 2016, Seferian Design Group was retained by the DPCDSB to design and oversee construction administration for 60 schools that were selected to have their early learning outdoor childcare spaces renovated. These spaces for all 60 schools were derelict, uninspiring, seas of asphalt and not conducive to fostering imagination or play amongst children. With a budget of $4.5M, the DPCDSB had a requirement: the transformation of sterile asphalt yards into low-maintenance, yet dynamic and inspiring outdoor learning environments with a focus on naturalized play. With this requirement in mind, our SDG design team, which included landscape architects, artificial turf consultant, wood carver, and asphalt painting consultant, began developing the overall concept design for each schoolyard space.

In order to keep the project on budget, the design combined elements of naturalized play with the existing asphalt pads, creating a hybrid version that provides fun opportunities of learning and discovery, and also promotes a reconnection with nature.

Each schoolyard included artificial turf to reduce maintenance costs. Our team took great pride in this “green initiative” by using both recycled and recyclable materials for turf, such as cryogenic rubber infill (the “artificial dirt” in the artificial grass) which is made from 100% recycled tires. The cryogenic process eliminates metals and fibers from old tires and ensures the final product is non-toxic and safe for humans, the environment, most important in this instance- children. The artificial grass itself can also eventually be recycled and used in other plastic products.

Another special consideration for this project is the asphalt painting. With sustainability in mind, all existing asphalt surfaces were reused and painted with bright colours. This special painting technique bonds permanently to the asphalt surfaces. It is developed with balanced performance and sustainable characteristics in mind, including:
The scope of work also included liaison with School Board staff and representatives from all authorities having jurisdiction, preparation of analysis with recommendations, proposals and designs, working drawings and specifications for tendering and construction, general review during construction, and all contract administration functions, including post occupancy to total completion and warranty period. Upon completion of each school, SDG created an FAQ sheet and questionnaire sheet that was distributed to each school principal. Feedback on the questionnaire will guide future schoolyard development in the region.

Construction was initiated during the summer of 2015 (25 schools) and 2016 (35 schools). Former asphalt jungles were replaced with brightly coloured asphalt and soft turf, big outdoor blackboards, planters for gardening, dramatic play areas, and wooden stages. Painted mathematical shapes and the alphabet were provided to be used by the teachers as learning tools extended to the outside, where kindergarten kids are exposed to at least two 40-minute blocks each day. After consultation with the kids, each school chose a unique carving created by a local artist. The carvings, always an animal indigenous to Ontario, provide an identity to each play area and were recycled from previous DPCDSB tree removals. Some students have named their particular carving, acting as the school mascot in some instances.