Staff from Acadia Street Elementary, Temperance Street Elementary and New Glasgow Jr. High schools met Wednesday to design a nature-based playground with Rhea Mahar, centre, for New Glasgow Academy. AMANDA JESS – THE NEWS
NEW GLASGOW – Staff from Acadia Street Elementary, Temperance Street Elementary and New Glasgow Jr. High schools are beginning to put roots down for the playground at New Glasgow Academy.
The three schools had a brainstorming session with Rhea Mahar, a greening consultant, Wednesday to plan a nature-based playground at the school opening next year.
Mahar says many countries in Europe have already adopted the back-to-nature approach.
“They’re allowed to take more risks,” she says.
Mahar wants to remove the “bubble wrap” and allow kids to play freely without equipment.
Mahar has worked with several daycares and non-governmental organizations to create natural play spaces over the past 18 years.
Playgrounds at public schools in Ontario and British Columbia have already taken the leap back to nature, thanks to Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds, a Dundas, Ont.-based landscaping company.
Mahar says if the playground goes through as hoped, it would be a trailblazer for public schools in the province.
She says it encourages optimal child development and decreases vandalism as the community takes ownership of the playground they had a direct hand in designing.
“People aren’t taking their kids outside anymore,” Mahar says, adding that the contact with nature changes behaviour patterns for the better.
Mahar uses natural slopes to create slides, tree stumps and rock to make seating areas and wood for play structures.
She tries to preserve existing landscape and mixes types of trees to keep the area colourful during all the seasons.
Allison Wilson, principal at New Glasgow Jr. High School, is excited about the planning.
“I really feel like we’re doing it right,” Wilson says.
Over the next six weeks, Mahar will also be meeting with parents and children for input into the design, including children from A. G. Baillie School.
Wilson says the planning stages should be done by November and they can hopefully begin the building process by spring.
The three schools were also meeting to discuss a restorative approach to teaching children how to interact with one another.
“We’re looking at how you can deal with kids differently,” Wilson says.
Restorative approach tries to make sure every child is treated equally and also get to the root of issues.
It uses methods such as effective language that allows children to describe how they felt when a problem arose from another child’s behaviour.
The schools were participating in scenarios to better understand the proactive approach.
They’ll continue to meet twice a month for the next year, with one meeting a month dedicated to discussing restorative practices.