The idea for a new outdoor learning area at Athlone School started over three years ago when a committee of parents and teachers surveyed the school community. The survey revealed families wanted an outdoor space that would enrich the play and learning experience of Athlone students. With a goal in mind and the support of the principal, parent council began meeting with community groups who had developed outdoor learning areas and also gathering feedback from the Athlone community about what they wanted to see in the outdoor space. Parent council prepared a concept plan for the area, developed cost estimates, met with contractors, made presentations, and wrote grant applications; all while the Athlone community continued to fundraise to make the concept plan a reality.
When shovels started turning over the dirt, a very dedicated group of parents worked alongside the hired contractor to see the vision through to completion. After a lot of hard work and dedication, Athlone now has: a talking circle for outdoor lessons and discussions; stone pavers and logs for climbing, sitting, and balancing; 22 newly planted trees that will develop into a beautiful shady area for relief from the hot sun; and various other decorative stones and
boulders for playing around and sitting on.
The playground provides children of all abilities with a wonderful opportunity to develop their physical and social skills. Children run, play, climb, slide, and swing on the playground, but they also share, cooperate, and communicate. It allows them to use their imagination, to be creative and to collaborate with one another.
“I think it is lovely to see that we now have spaces, like our talking circle, which provide areas for different kinds of activities,” said Grade 1 teacher Mrs. Whitely. “I have seen students bringing out books, or little notepads and sitting on the rocks at recess enjoying the new space.”
Grade 2 teacher Mr. Young says he grew up in the country and remembers after school play as being all about nature. “I find it valuable to see our students getting the play opportunities that I had, whether it is hopping from rock to rock or jumping on logs,” said Mr. Young.
The students are also big fans of the new space. While Grade 1 student Bailey B. says she enjoys sitting on the rocks and talking to her friends, Grade 2 student Kim N. says she likes trying to jump from log to log. Two Grade 3 and 4 students, Jacob C. and Darius W., also shared their thoughts saying “the rocks are great and the trees are nice and green.”
Athlone School would like to pay a special thanks to our granting organizations - Investors Group, The City of Winnipeg (Councillor Scott Gillingham), and St. James-Assiniboia School Division. This project was possible due to the tremendous support of the community that contributed to Athlone’s fundraisers and made donations. It was also possible because of the support of Athlone’s principal, the St. James-Assiniboia School Division Senior Administration, the facilities and maintenance department, and the entire St. James-Assiniboia School Board. Most importantly, the project was made possible because of the hard work and commitment of our parent council who always believed it was in the best interest of Athlone’s students, their families and the surrounding community.
The new outdoor learning area at Athlone School will benefit the students by providing various learning opportunities in all kinds of subject areas and many chances to play and have fun together in a natural environment. It has the potential to be not only a benefit for Athlone students of today but for countless generations of students to come.