The new outdoor play space at Monterey Middle School is hard to peg.
The new swings get nice and high, offering a great view and the amphitheatre is roomy enough to share, says student Kate Andrews.
“I think it’s really cool. It’s nice and big,” she said. “You can see the entire class during class and there’s enough room to sit with lots of room for all your friends to hang out.”
The Parent Advisory Council installed an amphitheatre and age-appropriate swing set but has grand landscaping plans to only improve on the middle years experience at the Oak Bay school. Those elements officially opened with a ribbon cutting and ceremony last week.
“I often pinch myself when I realize where we are with this project. It feels like it’s been a long haul in some ways,” said parent project leader Kimberley Rogers.
“It’s apt that we’re here in a rainy November because this is how the whole story began.”
A fall 2013 storm took down a tree branch and destroyed playground equipment, sparking a Parent Advisory Council survey of students and staff.
The survey showed no appetite for an elementary school playground as had existed. Teachers want to take learning outdoors, while students seek a place to socialize – and swings. PAC started fundraising within the school and Oak Bay Fire Fighters Charitable Foundation donated $10,000 toward the cause.
“Last spring we pulled together enough funds for a landscape architect to develop a vision,” Rogers said. “We decided to break it into chunks and work step by step.”
This summer the PAC installed the boulder seating area, a socializing area and the much-requested swing set.
“I really enjoy the new swings and my friends and I have found a special place that’s really comfortable in the boulder seating area where we like to sit,” said student M.C. for the event Ainsley Fenton. “We love to enjoy the sun streaming through the branches of the Garry oak trees. I can hardly wait for the next phases of the playground to be installed.”
The PAC hopes to add more elements in the spring.
Deborah Nohr, a trustee with the Greater Victoria School District sees the updated landscaping as a critical component for students not only academically but socially as well.
“You have a great passion for the outdoors, for sports and to get your heart racing in a multitude of different ways,” Nohr told students during the launch. “Now that you have your playground and you have your outdoor classroom it’s just going to continue to support that active learning and that connection to the outdoors. I’m thrilled about that.”
In a bid to showcase the variety of uses for the amphitheatre principal Ken Andrews had the Monterey strings perform a couple songs for those in attendance. He hopes to see that group and others use the the space once wet weather lets up.
“We’re excited to have strings play in the new outdoor area … whether it’s a music ensemble playing or a mini play or a social science class doing skits … I love that when we embed learning in the natural world,” he said. “If we’re going to build leaders of the future to take care of our world first we’ve got to know it and love it and that starts with experiences outside.”