A place of imagination and wonder has come to View Royal Elementary school.
Nestled at the front of the school on Helmcken Road, students can pretend to hop between rocks above molten lava, build a mini city in a sandbox, or put on an impromptu play for their fellow students.
The space is the elementary school’s new nature playground, which had its grand opening last week. The playground includes climbing structures made from timber, rocks and boulders, a small amphitheatre, tables, a sandbox and a butterfly garden.
“We wanted something different. We have the traditional playground, there is some research coming out about how and why kids play that we wanted to explore,” principal Read Jorgensen said. “We wanted a playground in a space where kids could be more active in creative their play rather than a playground that has prescribed play.”
The school’s old playground began to reach the end of its life roughly four years ago, so the Greater Victoria School District (SD61) decided to tear it down, leaving the space empty.
Kindergarten teacher Terra Pickwick originally came up with the idea of a nature playground, when she was on maternity leave with her second child. At the time, her three-year-old daughter was curious about everything and the environment around her. It was that sense of curiousity that Pickwick wanted to bring to the school setting.
From there, she researched the idea and pitched it to the school, staff and the parent advisory council, who fell in love with the idea.
Over the past few years the school has raised the more than $148,000 through fundraisers and also received a number of donations from local government, agencies and community businesses to build the nature playground and in October, it was finally installed.
“It is so satisfying seeing all of our hard work, planning and fundraising come to fruition and seeing the kids enjoying the space so much,” said Pickwick, who has been a kindergarten teacher in View Royal for the past seven years.
“It’s been an amazing addition to our school … There’s an unbelievable amount of imaginative play that we’re seeing happening in our nature playground.”
The playground has an educational component as well. Teachers have taken students to see the plants that have started to grow and to use the tables.
“Kids actually do quite well when they’re left in a creative environment,” Jorgensen said. “I think often, we as adults like to think we know what kids like and kids will find great ways to play and be active in all kinds of different environments … They just make fun where they are and they invent games and use their imagination.”