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A new way to play at Chiganois Elementary School’s natural wonder

Rain did not stop Allie Aitchison-Rant from happily surveying her new kingdom, at Chiganois Elementary School near Masstown on June 21.
Rain did not stop Allie Aitchison-Rant from happily surveying her new kingdom, at Chiganois Elementary School near Masstown on June 21. - Fram Dinshaw

Sustainable play area will allow children run free – and learn lessons about protecting the environment

MASSTOWN, N.S. —

Clambering over logs, picking fruit from trees and enjoying a school lesson in an outdoor amphitheatre is Allie Aitchison-Rant’s idea of heaven.

The fifth-grader at Chiganois Elementary School enjoyed her first taste of heaven on June 21, when its new natural playground officially opened after months of building work.

“There’s nature all around us,” said Aitchison-Rant. “It’s also very nice to be able to climb on wood and it’s better for our environment, because we’re not producing plastic to make it.”

Among the park’s other features is a wooden bridge designed to let children walk over or climb underneath, while a swing set designed for children of all abilities is also under construction. A gravel trail links together all the amenities.

The playground will also be a source of food for staff and students, as apple, plum, pear and cherry trees have been planted.

However, being a Grade 5 student, Aitchison-Rant may not be around long enough to enjoy the fruits of her playground as she is progressing to middle school come fall.

Nonetheless, she felt the natural park will offer her fellow students a stronger sense of community, while their parents are also thrilled.

“It’s amazing for sure, I actually feel like I’m a little kid right now,” said Jennifer McKay, president of the Parent Teacher Group at Chiganois Elementary. “I’m getting so excited for them to have outdoor classes.”

The playground was made possible by grants from Tree Canada, Staples, the Municipality of the County of Colchester and the province. Staples made money by levying a $5 charge on products under $50, with half the proceeds going to Tree Canada, helping to plant 220,000 trees across Canada.

The Chiganois PTG also raised funds through food sales and several other local business made donations.

Construction started earlier this year and it cost about $130,000 to build the playground, the culmination of a three-year project called Loose Parts Play.

Bruce Carter, Tree Canada’s Nova Scotia community advocate, said the playground was a chance for students to learn about the life cycle of trees and what edible products they can produce.

He said the playground is a sustainable project, which can teach children about environmental stewardship from an early age, in a world impacted by climate change, deforestation and plastic pollution.

“They’re the leaders of tomorrow, so we have to start with them and perhaps, hopefully, they can make some changes and have a more suitable environment,” said Carter.

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