COVID-19 restrictions have highlighted the importance of access to outdoor play for children. It has also shown the need for a sense of community. This is especially true in urban and low-income communities, where there is often limited natural green and outdoor play space. To address this need, communities across the country have been trying to create spaces where children can play freely, and spaces where communities can come together. Meighan Mantei’s article, “Changing the Grounds of Play”, published in the Canadian Journal of Children’s Rights Vol. 7 No. 1 (2020), shares the story of one such community that came together to rebuild a local school’s outdoor space, and reignite a sense of community and belonging. While this story focuses on the revitalization of a school’s outdoor space, the lessons learned from this project are applicable to other community spaces as well, including family support centers.
Grasslands Community School is in North Central Regina, a neighbourhood sometimes referred to as “Canada’s worst neighbourhood”. This is due, in part, to rising levels of crime and lack of community funding. Despite these circumstances, the school community chose to make a positive change through a playground revitalization project! This project would transform the school’s outdoor space that was “desolate, unsafe and institutional”, into an area where students, teachers, parents and the wider community could gather and enjoy.
The full “Changing the Grounds of Play” article takes you through the journey of this playground revitalization project. It also provides some important ideas, which are summarized below. These ideas can be used when creating any outdoor play space, no matter where you are:
- Create an outdoor play space that reflects the culture of the wider community . As 85% of Grasslands Community School’s population identify as First Nations or M?́tis, the project organizers believed it was important to incorporate Indigenous knowledge and culture into the outdoor space. For this, the project organizers consulted Elders and Knowledge Keepers within the community. Creating a culturally inclusive space can help the community feel connected to it, which can lead to increased community bonding.
- Include children when planning outdoor play spaces. Children will be using these spaces the most. If they feel their voices are heard and opinions valued, they will feel protective of their new space. And when they feel included, they will work together to ensure that the space is taken care of. This can support the project’s long-term success.
- Include parents and the wider community in developing the outdoor play spaces. This is critical in communities where parents have limited involvement in their children’s play due to structural and environmental barriers. It can help build community and family cohesion.
- Build cooperative relationships with local administrations involved in the project. This might include local government, school boards, community partners, local businesses, etc. Working with relevant community partners will make the process of creating an outdoor space smoother. It will also be beneficial when seeking funding and support.
By taking these lessons into consideration, Grasslands Community School successfully created a “natural outdoor space, grounded in local and Indigenous knowledge” that helped the students and the community “nurture a sense of place and reclaim a positive school and community identity”.
To learn more about Grasslands Community School and their playground revitalization journey, check out the original journal article.
Written by: Bushra Rahman, Project Officer, Families Canada
Based on content from: The Canadian Journal of Children’s Rights
Published with the support of: Landon Pearson Centre for the Study of Childhood and Children’s Rights; and Meighan Mantei – PhD Candidate in Anthropology at Carleton University and author of Changing the Grounds of Play.