Field of dreams

For at least the past five years, there has been consistent murmuring about the state of the playground at St Joseph’s Primary School, Merewether.

The school year would often commence with the oval displaying a nice covering of grass, but with nearly 300 children using it daily, it would quickly deteriorate. With no chance for recovery during the school year, the playground would quickly become a dust bowl, and the P&F and school leadership were regularly approached for a solution.

At the start of 2019, with new principal Karen McGinlay on-board, the school community was mobilised to create a field of dreams. We revitalised the playground, transforming it from dust bowl to verdant turf, combining a variety of spaces that invite students to use their imaginations, stimulate their curiosity and learn through play.

The project was ambitious, but we consulted, designed, raised funds, put to tender and completed construction, all before the start of school this year. We now have a fantastic all-weather, diverse playing area that all children from Kindergarten to Year 6 enjoy, and in time so too will the broader community, including sporting clubs and charitable organisations.

We were successful in achieving our goal through the hard work of an amazing group of parents and teachers, who gave large amounts of their personal time to design a suitable area, arrange and host numerous fundraisers, prepare submissions for grants and ultimately oversee the installation of what we have today — turfed soccer and netball fields, a dry creek bed, a bridge, an open space and a very inviting mound.

A key aspect of the whole process was consultation. All students were given opportunities to contribute to the design, as well as the teaching staff and parent body.

On returning to school this year, one of the students was overheard saying “our playground has been transformed into an amazing oasis for us all”, and a parent supported that comment, declaring “so green, so clean, what a dream”.

But it was Mrs McMillan, one of our school’s teachers, who summed up the benefits of everyone’s collective work. “The playground has transformed our teaching and learning,” she said. “This amazing space has been a collaborative task, achieved with an entire community's support. Our families, siblings, playgroup children and our primary school students can discover, encounter and learn together in a visually enhanced environment. This space has lifted our spirits and our minds for growth every day.”

Our achievement is a shining example of what a community can do if they pull together for a common cause.

At the official opening, Newcastle Jets Chief Lawrie McKinna said the A-League club would host a coaching clinic at the school’s new field later this year.


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