Sacred Heart Catholic School in Guelph celebrated the completion of the first phase of a playground revitalization project this past week.
“With the support of our Catholic School Council, a committee has been formed to create a multi-year project to transform the yard where our children play and learn. Our goal is for this revitalized yard to foster wonder, adventure, active play, risk-taking, collaboration, and of course fun for all ages, stages and abilities for our children and the wider community,” shared Vicki Sheehan, principal of Sacred Heart – Guelph.
Over the past two-years, the Catholic School Council, and more specifically a sub-committee named the Schoolyard Renewal Project, have fundraised and collected donations from generous community members to help build a playground on the school yard. Working along with a landscape artist, the playground, a modern nature focused build was completed in August 2021 ahead of the school year.
“Our school community is responsible for fundraising the entire cost of this initiative,” explained Sheehan. “To begin, the Catholic School Council and the Playground Committee organized a carnival at the school in June 2018. From there, the parents organized and hosted a golf tournament in 2019. All the proceeds from both events went to the completion of this first phase of the Schoolyard Renewal Project. There was also a call for donations over the last year due to COVID-19 and not fundraising at the school.”
At the forefront of the project, chair of the playground committee, Mark Mycyk, has been instrumental in seeing the playground come to fruition.
“I wanted to get involved in the school that my daughter attends and when I heard the school council was interested in building a playground, I was very interested in helping,” he explained. “It is a good fit for me because I was involved in renewing the playground at my daughters' preschool the year before joining Sacred Heart School. So I am familiar with the tasks required to move the project along. I also enjoy meeting new people and achieving positive outcomes for the kids and the community.”
Beyond creating just another play structure, it was important for Mycyk and the committee to create a space that allows for children to connect as well as blending with the lush nature within the playground.
“I am so pleased to see the kids have a nature-based play space for them to interact and engage in safe, fun ways. I feel the new playground has more meaning now as our society emerges from the COVID pandemic and everyone wants to socialize and connect with other people again,” he said.
And since it has been open to the students, the play structure has done just that.
“So far the children love it! This play structure allows for children to climb and explore. It is made out of almost all natural materials. The design allows children to work on balance, and climbing. Our students are certainly risk-takers as they have been climbing to the top and learning to climb back down safely,” she said. “There is not a recess that goes by that there are not children playing on the new structure.”
As the committee begins Phase 2 of the Schoolyard Renewal Project, they will be looking for community support with the project.
“When this Schoolyard Renewal Project is complete, our goal is to have Active, Experimental, Individual, Gathering and Ecological spaces that each create unique learning opportunities. The second phase consists of a fitness and challenge structure and fundraising and requests for donations towards this phase are underway,” explained Sheehan.
While their work is not done yet, Mycyk thanks the Catholic School Council members and community for helping to complete the play structure.
“I am grateful for all the hard work our playground committee members have put in over the years to see this first phase of the playground complete,” said Mycyk.
“I would also like to thank Nicole DeFrancesco, former Principal of Sacred Heart Catholic School, for her leadership throughout the first phase of this project. Her dedication to Sacred Heart and Catholic Education is unwavering and she was instrumental in making this happen,” added Sheehan.