Englefeld School unveils the design of a natural playground during the school’s grand reopening

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Englefeld School celebrated its renovated school with a grand reopening broadcast to the community and unveiled its “natural playground” style playground plan to the public.

Approximately $ 440,000 was spent on facility upgrades, and $ 40,000 was provided in emerging funding by the Department of Education for the works.

Horizon School Division plans to spend an additional $ 100,000 to complete the work in a second phase, which has yet to go through the tendering process.

The event saw dignitaries speak, including Todd Goudy, MP for Melfort constituency; Mark Fedak, director of the region’s board of directors; and Kevin Garinger, Director of Education for Horizon, as well as retirement awards given to outgoing faculty including Kayla Shaw, Donna Moellenbeck, Marie Stockbrugger, Trevor Kowalski and Charles Biemans.

Corinne Harcourt, principal of Englefeld, said that in recent years, surveys have been given to students based on what they want to see in school, and each year students have yielded similar results .

“There has always been a lot of love in this school anyway,” Harcourt said. “Do we need changes? Absolutely we did. The changes that have been made have brightened up the classrooms, the lighting has been great. The teachers started to comment on how beautiful and bright it is. We now have spaces that we did not have before.

Harcourt described it “like Christmas” to the staff.

“The students are thrilled to have the new space for the student lounge, and for the teachers, part of our favorite part is the new teacher workroom. We love it, it’s an amazing space.

Shelley van der Buhs, President of the School Community Council (SCC), said that previously the space available for students was too small, causing stress for teachers and students when it came to planning and to find storage space.

“From a parent’s perspective, as long as our kids are happy, engaged, and learning, I think we can work with any space – but their voice has been heard for their needs,” Buhs said.

“I can attest to this because my son has varying needs. Just having the inclusiveness where he doesn’t have to go to a very small room to receive his education, he can be in larger spaces, with his peers.

Landon Stockbrugger, chairman of the Student Representative Council (SRC), said he felt student voices were heard throughout upgrades, specifically pointing to the student lounge.

The student lounge is a new addition to the school. With seating, a sofa, and a microwave, the small space may seem like a cubbyhole to some, but Stockbrugger said the incorporation was important for classes.

“(It’s) a place to relax and take time, or just relax and do things,” Stockbrugger said. “Usually we just stayed in the classroom during lunch. ”

Natural play landscape

The natural play landscape, also known as a “spare parts play area”, is intended to be built in the empty space behind the school.

“A natural play landscape, in simple terms, is a landscaping plan and design intentionally designed to make it easier for children of all ages to play and learn in a setting that makes nature and its benefits accessible to all.” , said Grade 7 teacher Merrissa Karmark. at 12, when it is presented to the community.

“While traditional playgrounds favor the use of these structured types of fabricated metal and plastic components, a natural play landscape really focuses on the use of perennial trees and shrubs, grasses, of logs, stone, sand and lawn to create a really interesting textured space for kids to create play in their own way.

Harcourt said they started their fundraising efforts in 2019, but wanted to work quietly for grants before announcing it to the community due to the size of the project.

A total of $ 43,725 is currently secured out of the $ 155,000 needed to complete the project, plus landscaping and labor.

The construction will include a shore, a miniature game, a hill, specific plants and trees, a play area in the kitchen, a water play area, a construction play area, connected by rubberized paths.

Karmark said the hope is to have a place where young people of all abilities and ages can interact, grow and learn together.

“While this is a new venture for our school, and as I understand it within Horizon School Division, natural playscapes have a growing reputation around the world for their forward thinking approach. and innovative play and learning in an era when childhood has become dominated by screens, technology and growing sedentary lifestyles.

A shore will be built, with sand rather than water. The shore, described as a “water hazard-free marine game” will have a wheelchair accessible pier and bridge as well as an accessible sand table.

Miniature play will involve an area with a mosaic of smooth pebbles and river stones embedded in concrete to encourage seated play. There will be painted stone buildings, houses, cars, animals and other items created by the Arts Ed class that are of low monetary value and a stiff bristled ‘workshop broom’ with a shortened handle for that children can sweep the space and leave or snow as they wish.

Trees and shrubs have been selected in the miniature area based on their interactive and transformative quality, which includes flexible willow branches, lilac flowers and seeds, Japanese maple “helicopters” and caragana flowers. .

A hill will be built which will be wheelchair accessible by road; a campfire circle that will also serve as an outdoor classroom space with a blackboard and benches; tent frames that can be transformed using loose parts such as canvas, branches, wood; and an area behind the hill planted with juniper and spruce to discourage foot traffic.

A construction zone is planned with wheelchair accessible excavators; building panels to allow for creative engineering play; gravel, stone, and objects of interest of various sizes to sift through.

An outdoor kitchen is planned for construction to encourage home and hospitality games of skill which will involve measuring, mixing, portioning, and a covered space for all-weather play.

A water play area is planned which will include accessible raised water tables, a water wall with movable troughs, funnels and buckets, as well as hand pumps to access water in rain barrels.

“It has been brought to our attention on several occasions that the city uses this space during Hogfest, and so this has been factored into the design and space that there is still plenty of room for community events and we want the community to feel welcome and invited to the space as well, ”Karmark said.


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