Peria School students were provided an opportunity to voice what they would like to see done with an overgrown and unused space, next to their existing playground. The overwhelming response from students was just to have more room to play!
First, the school felt they needed to address some questions… How can we ensure that students are part of the process? What are the fundamental skills and progressions in skills we are trying to develop? What ways can we involve the community to be a part of the process? And how can we keep the school safe and ensure the safety of our students? From here, Principal Ari Williams says “it was very straight forward”!
A parent of the school, Josephine Schlatter, then worked with tamariki who shared, designed, and created models of their ideal play space. Principal Ari explains, “their ideas were quite out there and had to be scaled back to be achievable, but with Josephine’s help and the students creativity, it was easy to ensure that essential skills such as balancing, jumping, and climbing were incorporated into the design”.
With further research into play areas, they found that using natural materials was a good fit to their school mission statement which states “We will support and inspire our children to develop holistically and achieve academically to their highest potential using a curriculum that recognises the diversity of their interests and talents, that develops their creativity and ability to lead the way in sustainable practices, that engages each child and the school community with their learning”.
A local contractor who has connections with the school, was approached to do the work and bought in local stones and logs to create the area. “We did have robust conversations and discussions about health and safety, fall ground and specific height restrictions. This was a piece of work as there is not much information in regard to purpose build, individualised obstacle spaces that are also made from natural materials!” says Ari. Children were invited to be involved on a weekly basis to be a part of the construction process. They worked on mapping, gridding, scraping bark off the tree trunks, planting out the gardens and moving tyres into position. “With Sport Northlands help it was easy! They were very supportive of our project, they knew our vision and let us explore how we would like to see that vision come to life” says Ari.
With so much mahi put in by Peria and their school community, the end product finally became a space where students could play safely, create their own fun and connect with nature. Ari highlights “we believe the students use this more because they helped to design and build it!” which was more than what the school could have imagined!