The haulers and the skid steers have finally made their way to the west side of Englefeld School as the first stages of earth moving get under way for the school’s unique play space. The concept combines a loose parts playground, an edible crop area, and a terraformed outdoor classroom that serves as a natural play area for young imaginations. 

The planning and the fundraising have been key to get to this point, says Englefeld School teacher and spearhead of the project, Merrissa Karmark. She talks about watching the first loads of clay and earth come in,

“It’s pretty exciting and a relief because winter is coming. We’re putting in a small hill and some different landscaping features, just to create a space that’s more interesting for kids to play in, so we needed a combination of weather, equipment and volunteers to all come together on the same day.”

Trucks of clay and earth arrived on Friday, just before an Alberta Clipper moved into the area to grind things to a temporary halt. Work will continue on developing the natural play space with other elements being added following the first phase, says Karmark. 

“Things like trees need to be established, and then other things are easy to add on top.”

Contrary to many play structures which can go up relatively quickly, this unusual concept will continue to unfold as new elements are completed. In the land moving phase, Darius Pretorius of Frederick Farms, owned by Petrus and AnneMe Wiid, was onhand delivering material, and Jeremy Haas with Haas Gravel Ventures moved the earth to begin shaping the elements. Both businesses are donating work and equipment use.  Getting this far has been the labour of many hands in fundraising, says Englefeld School principal Corinne Harcourt. 

“We’ve had major donations in the last four years, including Midway Co-op, the Good Neighbour Store, our last year’s grad class, BHP, TD - we’ve just had tremendous support from people as we apply for grants along the way. “

Even the earth and clay is being donated by Pat, Karen, Nathan, and Shari Pitka. 

This earth hauling and shaping may be on standstill throughout the winter months, but the first overture to the project shows visible progress. The shed to house the loose parts components are already set up. The small world play area will provide imaginative experiences for the younger set. A grant for TD allows for a $10,000 edible forest garden which will provide outlets for Practical and Applied Arts and Horticulture curricula. A water feature will house native plants, perfect for biology and horticulture studies. A sand play area will lead up to a terraced amphitheatre that can be used as an outdoor classroom or performance area. 

Harcourt passes along her thanks to all those involved, particularly Merrissa Karmark whose background and vision have helped steer the project to this point.