The Laboratory School at the University of Toronto’s Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study (JICS) is an award-winning preschool to Grade 6 school affiliated with the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. The university chose PLANT to redesign JICS’s outdoor play area to improve its accessibility and support the school’s pedagogical emphasis on providing creative play opportunities that encourage students’ mental and physical development, while enhancing their sense of connection to the natural world.

Prior to PLANT’s work on the site, a flat asphalt surface enclosing a few trees was the main play space. In our design, the need for an accessibility ramp became an opportunity to introduce new, multi-level play possibilities.

U of T’s Design Review Committee praised our ramp concept as a sculptural form that achieves exemplary accessibility while creating an amazing range of interactive play opportunities for children of varying ages. The narrow pocket of space between the new ramp and the rear wall of the school is a ‘secret sensory garden’ – a quiet nook containing plants of different shapes, colours, textures, and fragrances. Along the ramp’s outer edge are child-sized niches and stepped log segments that invite kids to climb through the splayed pickets and onto the infrastructure.

Play nooks in the sandbox

In between a sand-and-water-play zone and a boomerang-shaped climbing structure, a figure-8 tricycle track with a tree root-protecting wooden bridge loops around the two main gathering areas. In one of these areas, a pavilion’s translucent, leaf-shaped canopy ensures that story time can take place outside even on wet days. The other is a wood mound that becomes a sliding slope in the snowy months. Zones including the climbing structure and the wood mound invite kids to test and expand their physical abilities and also serve as flexible stage sets for role-playing. A hard surface play area provides space for shooting baskets and other vigorous sports activities. Improvised play with ‘props’ such as tarps, cable spools, and pool noodles is an important aspect of JICS’s pedagogy. Our team has designed two colourfully shingled, organically shaped sheds – dubbed “The Potato” and “The Onion” – for storing this equipment. Climbing-wall grips embedded in The Potato enable this utility structure to do double duty as yet another type of play area.

PLANT’s scope also includes a new entry, washroom renovations, and exterior wall alterations that support accessibility and programming changes while preserving the heritage character of the school building.

  1. A Conversation of Views
  2. Admiral Road Garden
  3. Airdrie Road Garden
  4. Airdrie Road Residence
  5. Albany Avenue Residence
  6. Alcina Garden
  7. Alexandra Park
  8. Aporia Records
  9. Ardwick Townhouses
  10. Asphalt Poetry
  11. – Poem
  12. Baby Point Gardens
  13. Beach Garden
  14. Beach Village BIA Master Plan
  15. Beaty Residence
  16. Bennington Heights Garden
  17. Berkeley Street Residence
  18. Bin-Scarth Garden
  19. Blink and you miss it.
  20. – Poem
  21. Block 22 Landscape
  22. Bloor St. Apartment
  23. Blue Note
  24. Booth Avenue Residence
  25. Boustrophedon Garden
  26. Braemore Gardens Residence
  27. Browning Avenue Residence
  28. Brunswick Avenue Residence
  29. Camp Arowhon Offices
  30. Canadian Firefighters Memorial
  31. Channelled Buried Moved Lost
  32. Chocolate Loft
  33. City Instrument
  34. Clarendon Garden
  35. Conversation Piece
  36. Cortleigh Boulevard Garden
  37. Creemore Farm
  38. Danforth Mosaic BIA Master Plan
  39. Dickson Park Garden
  40. Dilworth Residence
  41. Don Landing Revitalization
  42. Dublin Grounds of Remembrance
  43. Duncanwoods Townhouses
  44. Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden
  45. Dupont-by-the-Castle BIA
  46. East Point Bird Sanctuary
  47. Eglinton Ave Forecourt
  48. Eglinton Park Master Plan
  49. Elizabeth Fry Society
  50. Ellsworth Residence
  51. Face to Face | Tête à Tête
  52. First Avenue Garden
  53. First Avenue Residence
  54. Flyover Canada
  55. Foote’s Pond Wood
  56. Forest Hill Village Streetscape
  57. Gaze, Glimpse, Glance
  58. Global Affairs Monument
  59. Goldring Landscape, University of Toronto
  60. Gormley Garden
  61. Governor's Bridge Lookout
  62. Greener P
  63. Greer Road Garden
  64. Greer Road Residence
  65. Guelph Bridge
  66. Head in the Clouds
  67. Helena Ave Residence 4
  68. Jackman Institute for Childhood Studies
  69. Jean Tweed Addition + Laneway House
  70. Junction Craft Brewery
  71. Kelpies Competition
  72. Kew Gardens Streetscape
  73. King's Landing Apartment
  74. Kipling & Islington Developments
  75. Lakeport Beach Neighbourhood
  76. Le jardin du repos
  77. Lenticular Curtain
  78. Leslie Slip Lookout Park
  79. Liberty Village Parkettes
  80. Liza’s Garden
  81. Lynwood Garden
  82. Macroscape
  83. Makwa Waakaa'igan
  84. Markham Garden One
  85. Markham Street Residence Two
  86. Massey College Landscape Restoration
  87. May Street Ravine
  88. Midtown Yonge Streetscape
  89. Mount Dennis Parkettes
  90. Mulock Park
  91. Nathan Phillips Square
  92. – Streetscape
  93. – Peace Garden
  94. – Podium Roof Garden
  95. Noel Garden
  96. Octane Medical Campus
  97. Orchard View Garden
  98. Osgoode Atkinson Green Competition
  99. Owl Cottage
  100. Paperstone Scissors
  101. Pendrith Residence
  102. Peripheral Sitings
  103. Pottery Road Crossing
  104. rare
  105. Ravine Forecourt
  106. Ribbon of the Lower Don
  107. Riverside BIA Master Plan
  108. Roxborough Garden One
  109. Roxborough Garden Two
  110. Schulich School of Business
  111. Sheridan College
  112. – Trafalgar Campus Master Plan
  113. Spadina Quay Wetland
  114. St. Anne's Road Garden
  115. St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts
  116. Stratford Market Square Competition
  117. Stratford Patterson Theatre Competition
  118. Superkids Dental
  119. Superlegible
  120. Sweet Farm
  121. Sweet Farm Pond House
  122. Swift Medical Offices
  123. The Meadows Reconsidered
  124. The Red Sash
  125. Thick & Thin
  126. Thistletown II Townhouses
  127. Tipping Point
  128. TMU Centre for Urban Innovation
  129. TMU Science Building
  130. Tranby Garden
  131. Tree House Residence
  132. UBC Okanagan – The Commons
  133. UHN Tunnels
  134. University of Toronto Mississauga Welcome Centre
  135. Venice Biennale 2012
  136. Vermont Square Park
  137. Vernon Avenue Garden
  138. Walk the Walk
  139. Walmer Road Residence
  140. Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial
  141. Wellesley Cottages Garden
  142. Wells Street Residence
  143. Westminster Residence
  144. Weston Village BIA Masterplan
  145. With Words as Their Actions
  146. Woodlawn Avenue Residence
  147. Woven Stories
  148. Wynford Drive Residences
  149. York Park
  150. Yorkwoods Townhouses