The smallest of King George’s ‘Knights’ deserve much more in a schoolyard, says Adam Carswell.
“I’ve been a principal since 2006 and I’ve never seen a worse playground,” he said of the outdoor kindergarten area. “It’s just a mud pit out here some days. A lot of the time the kids can’t even come out at all.”
The kindergarten play area is largely packed dirt with no play equipment and drainage problems that leave it in poor condition throughout the school year.
“This yard does not meet the needs of all our little Knights — both physical and developmental,” said kindergarten teacher Freya Bartelen, who has pushed for improvements for years.
The Sarnia school’s growing kindergarten population is expected to reach 60 this fall, and some students require walkers and VON nurse support.
“But if it rains or snows — these kids, they’re just stuck,” she said.
After arriving in January, Carswell, Bartelen and other teachers formed a committee to address the need for both a new kindergarten playground and an outdoor classroom.
“We approached the (Lambton Kent District School) Board and they said, ‘If you can fundraise for the actual play equipment, we’ll help with the rest,” said Carswell.
Drainage improvements and the installation of artificial turf are set to begin this summer.
The group began fundraising in March and set a lofty goal of $40,000. A Spring Celebration was held in May, featuring live bands, vendors, classic cars, prizes and more. Students from each class assembled gift baskets for auction while donations poured in from local businesses. Nearly $20,000 was raised that day alone.
“I challenged our staff to get involved and we’ve had 100% participation,” said Carswell. “This whole fundraising campaign is just indicative of the generosity of the whole school community.”
Planning is also underway for the proposed K-8 outdoor classroom. With new outdoor Wi-Fi access, it will be a place where students can “write, read, present a math lesson, or conduct a messy science demonstration,” Carswell said.
“There’s a lot to benefit from just being outside. Not just physically, but especially for our mental health.”