Nelson’s Wildflower School is celebrating a $50,000 playground grant by jumping feet first into creating a new recreational area for kids and the community.
Naomi Ross, principal of the school operating out of Central Education Centre, said the BC Ministry of Education grant comes as their current playground reaches the end of its lifespan.
“Basically, we need a new playground because the existing structure is very old and is not able to be repaired adequately,” said Ross.
Recently, parents, designers and community members held a collaborative brainstorming session — a charrette, where grand ideas were dreamt up for the schoolyard.
“People came up with two overall plans for what they’d love the playground to look like and to be,” said Ross. “These are our dreams.”
The newer grassy area at the school is heavily used so more green space is a must. Along with regular playground equipment, children would love a parcour — an obstacle course that provides multi-level challenge.
“For them, the sky is the limit,” said Ross.
Parent volunteer Shari Imada started using the playground at Central when she brought her pre-school children to the Love to Learn program there. She felt the asphalt-dominated space seemed out of sync.
“It doesn’t really fit in with the landscape of Nelson,” she said.
Imada and her husband Don Willems live close to the school and met many families at the downtown school ground when they first moved to town.
“I thought, wow, this is really old-school,” said Willems.
Now that he and Imada have children in the Wildflower School they’re keen to fulfill the dream of having “a better place for them,” he said.
Parent volunteer involvement has already manifested in eight garden beds and a stage area at the school completed in 2008.
“Work has been started and we are happy to continue that,” he said.
While the playground grant gets their school started, Ross says more funding will be needed. They intend to apply for additional grants and fundraise with hopes of community and City of Nelson support.
“The playground is heavily used by many local user groups both during the week and on the weekends. Our vision is to create a community playground that will meet the needs of all our users,” said Ross. “It’s a shared space.”
Volunteer Ray Stothers said a lot of the community’s heart and soul have been put into the bricks and mortar of the old school and it would be good to continue that tradition of involvement.
“It’s important to invite them into this now,” he said.
Stothers spent the day before the design charrette in the classroom with students who were asked to talk and draw about their favourite play experiences. From the creative to big action to quiet time in nature, the kids are excited to give input into their improved space.
But for many children including Ross and Imada’s son Kieran, their school ground wishes boil down to one simple desire.
“I’d like it bigger with more places to play,” he said.
Wildflower and the Central Education Centre should start its outdoor transformation in 2013.