Elmdale Public School has plenty of reasons to be proud of their brand new play structure. Not only has it become an essential part of students’ active play time this year, but the kids got a say in how it would look.
“The kids are enjoying it so much that we had to create a schedule in the first month of school,” says Suzie Robertson, the Principal of Elmdale Public School. “They were playing on it in the summer and now they go on the structure before and after school, and on the weekends.”
Students were polled on what kinds of play equipment they wanted on the new structure. Some options included the type of slide (curved or straight), the number of monkey bars, or whether there should be a moving bridge or not. A parallel community survey was also passed out amongst parents in the community.
“Each class was having this conversation during school,” says Robertson. “In kindergarten we had the kids use dots to mark which things they wanted.”
In 2012 the old, wooden play structure was deemed unsafe by an inspector, and removed. By the fall of 2012, Elmdale began raising funds for a replacement.
Many of Elmdale’s annual events were restructured so that the funds went directly to paying for the new play structure. The school also held countless fundraisers that included bake sales, raffles, and dance parties.
Robertson says the fundraising process also served as a way of building community.
“It was the work of everyone coming together,” says Robertson. “Not just in raising the funds, but choosing what we wanted to do… it created a sense of community in that one year which really brought families together.”
The total project cost, for both site preparation and construction, was just under $73,000. $39,000 of that sum came from the City of Ottawa.
Elmdale is now considering future expansions to their two outdoor classrooms, their gardens, or even more playground equipment. These could include pretend trucks and other features to allow students to stretch their imaginations as they stretch their legs.
“We have a playground improvement committee,” says Robertson. “We’re hoping to bring in more imaginative play structures.”