Collaboration results in new school playground

Cases

A great deal of patience and perseverance

The playground at the De Regenboog (The Rainbow) Christian primary school in Borne, Netherlands, did not meet European standards. This meant that the equipment was removed from the area in 2002. Two years and two months later, a whole new schoolyard with three attractive items of equipment appeared in its place. "It has taken a great deal of patience and perseverance, not only on the part of the school, but also its parents and children. But the result is there to see!"

Sometimes it involved two or three centimetres, but too long is too long. At the end of 2002 the school was confronted with a negative report. The equipment had to go. Head teacher Joos Ormel says, 'It was also old and due for replacement but the school did not have the funds for it. The first thing we did was to approach the council. Our schoolyard is public and also accessible outside school hours. The council therefore also shares responsibility for it.'

Mr Ormel heard that no funds were available. Instead of being disappointed or complaining, he and the board of governors went into action and formulated a plan. "We drew a distinction between the activities: raising funds and lobbying was my responsibility, and the board of governors formed a committee that drew up an annual plan of fundraising activities."

One of the committee members is Alicie Passies, a member of the board of governors and a mother of four children. "It's not very nice to see your children playing on that bare yard. They mainly played pushing and pulling games or played police or with small balls that gradually got bigger..." Mr Ormel adds: "Playing in a flat place can be boring. I noticed that the play area seemed to generate arguments. Play is important, certainly between lessons. Children must be able to let themselves go, let off steam and build up new energy. This can only be done by playing together nicely by climbing, scrambling, hanging and hiding. Hopefully it works on two dimensions."

A plan for the playground

Whilst the fundraising was taking place and activities such as making and selling calendars and holding a fancy fair and sponsored swims were organised, the head teacher asked four suppliers to create a plan for the playground to find out what was possible. "We were very taken with the idea of wood, but we had to let that go as it requires a lot of maintenance. As a school, we just could not afford that. We also had to make choices: three items of equipment, one for each age group, and unfortunately no accessories such as benches."

A "cool" teacher

The children were only involved in the decision-making process once it was known what was possible. Mr Ormel puts it this way: "You can't dangle a carrot in front of them, especially if they have to wait for such a long time. We only involved the schoolchildren and local children at quite a late stage. The equipment then arrived straight away and everyone was happy. But you can't forget yourself as a school. It was an incredibly long process, you have to have a great deal of patience and keep everyone motivated. At one time parents drew designs on the yard: train tracks and a window frame. The children could then get involved with them."

Children deserve equipment

Sten Hulsink (9) and Rutger Smits (8) are in grade 5. For two years they played on a bare playground. They enjoyed it but they enjoy the Galaxy Asterope even more. Rutger says, "You can play hide and seek in it and hang and climb." Sten says he can really let off steam on this piece of equipment. It cost a pretty penny, but they also made a contribution: "I swam very fast; 31 lengths in half an hour." In addition to swimming the boys also got their hands dirty for the fancy fair.

Tips and practical experience from De Regenboog school

  • Involve the board of governors and parents in the project
  • Set up a committee to produce an (annual) plan for fundraising activities
  • Find out what you can do yourself, for example preparatory works
  • Allocate funds
  • Have a lot of patience and perseverance!

 

Fast facts

Location: Borne, The Netherlands

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