Working bee transforms a Wanganui school playground

SND20-wk3-PROPERTY-finished projectIt was a case of ‘many hands make light work’ when a working bee got together to install a new Play Matta playground surface at St Anne’s Catholic School in Wanganui earlier this year.

It was the second time a group of volunteers had laid a playground surface at the school, project leader Kate Lynch says.

“In 2000, when we needed to upgrade the senior playground, a working bee laid a Play Matta surface and that worked very well. Trevor (Howell) from Play Matta allowed us to prepare the site ourselves.

“Not all companies allow this as it defaults on their warranty, but by Play Matta allowing us to do it with free labour we saved $10,000, and it was so successful we wanted to repeat the exercise with the junior playground area.

“We could afford to purchase the tiles but not the installation costs, and if we had fundraised for it that would have taken several more years,” Ms Lynch says.

The school site, in Wanganui East, has a creek running behind it, and the ground has a very high water table, so previous surface materials used on the junior playground, such as bark and sawdust, got very wet, making it unsuitable for the children to use. The Play Matta tiles were again seen as the most appropriate material for the area, Ms Lynch says.

The working bee consisted of parents, school staff, the parish priest, parishioners, neighbours of the school and local business people who had connections with parents. They prepared the 160sqm site, with site management by Hamish Peters, with the assistance and advice of Mr Howell and two Play Matta staff, who worked alongside them. First, the existing material had to be taken up and removed, and this was done with a local digger operator and truck driver providing their equipment and time at no charge to the school. Then the surface was prepared for the installation of the tiles.

“We worked with the volunteers to make sure they got the base right for laying the matting,” Mr Howell says.

“We also made sure they got the warranties on the product, as they would have done with professional installation. The school didn’t miss out on those.”

The work was done outside school hours to minimise disruption, with the working bee completing the job over four weekends. The majority of this time was spent creating aspects of the surrounding play area, with the Play Matta surface being installed in one day with approximately 10 school volunteers working alongside the Play Matta staff.

“During the project, there were 10 to 20 people there on each of the days, depending on how many were needed,” Ms Lynch says.

“Once it started it just snowballed. A total of 765 hours was worked! That’s the concept of the working bee. When people see others doing it, it inspires them to join in.

“As well as the ones working on the playground there were also the behind-the-scenes people, who cooked food for the workers. It was a very positive environment, a really good community spirit, and everyone enjoyed it.”

St Anne’s Catholic School is located on a corner site with the newly developed playground area being at the front of the school.

“It’s quite a large area and it’s not fenced off, so it’s also a community space,” Ms Lynch says.

As well as the tiled area containing playground equipment, the area now includes a garden, with the whole space being surrounded by a concrete scooter ‘snake’ where the children can ride their scooters.

The design was prepared by two architects (school parents) with all students, parents and staff given time to comment and suggest changes, Ms Lynch says.

Shell rock, grass seed, plants and swing-seats were all donated to complete the project.
Ms Lynch says the students and staff at the school are thrilled with the re-developed junior playground.

“The Play Matta tiles are such a good surface, and very safe for the children, and it was wonderful that Trevor and his staff trusted us to do the work with advice and supervision from the Play Matta team. After the success we had with the senior playground, we knew this would be equally successful.”
Ms Lynch says the tiles certainly proved their worth after the recent serious flood event in Wanganui.

“The children still had access to their playground and space to play on. If it had been the old surface, they wouldn’t have had that. It would have been a bog. It’s paid for itself in a matter of months.”

The project was completed on February 15, 2015.

The school would particularly like to thank the following generous supporters for their time, effort and expertise:

  • Play Matta
  • Geocivil Consulting Engineers
  • Kieran Jordon Contracting
  • Ray McDonald Contracting
  • Downers Ltd
  • Ravensdown
  • Drawing Room Architecture
  • Loaders Landscaping Designs
  • Wanganui Garden Centre
  • Steve Hugo Carpentry
  • Trev’s Concrete
  • Allied Concrete
  • Wanganui Beautification Society
  • PowerCo Trust


Rosie Clarke

Rosie is the managing editor here at Multimedia Pty Ltd, working across School News New Zealand and School News Australia. She has spent 10+ years in B2B journalism, and has spent some time over the last couple of years teaching as a sessional academic. Feel free to contact her at any time with editorial or magazine content enquiries.
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