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New playground at Kimi Ora Community School

Kimi Kids 2

The incredibly special new playground at Kimi Ora Community School in Flaxmere is just buzzing with kids; playing, laughing and learning.

The school’s students have been involved at every level over the 18-month build – from talking to the community about its dreams for what is a whole-of-community outdoor space, planning and presenting ideas to Hastings District Council (which assisted with planning funding), to working with the designers to see their ideas come to life, then planting and mulching.

And the learning will continue with the playground designed to be a “massive part of the school’s curriculum”, says principal Matt O’Dowda.

The layout of the playground reflects the journey of Māori and Pasifika across the Pacific Ocean to Aotearoa. “The pou, carved by noted Hawke’s Bay carver Nathan Foote, waka and traditional pa site together tell the story of the journey that brought Ngati Kahungunu here.”

There are also a whole lot of elements that tie into health and well-being, fitness and future-focused learning, including native plants and growing, cycling (on the newly extended limestone cycle track that is set to grow even further), sports areas including an already hugely popular basketball pad, and a skatepark.

“Our kids will be as fit as – we can’t keep them off it,” says Matt.

Of great importance to the school is that the playground is a space for the whole community – any time, all of the time. To help draw them in, an outdoor cooking area has barbecues and shade. “We want to see it busy all of the time; during school, after school, at weekends and during the holidays.”

The playground plan came as a result of the rebuild of the school buildings – funded by the Ministry of Education.

“With that we only got concrete paths and lawn seed. We thought we could do better than that which kicked off this whole process. We now have something here that is very special to these kids and will continue to be for their tamariki and mokopuna.”

The playground was blessed and opened last week, with Council represented by Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst and councillors.

Flaxmere councillor Peleti Oli “loved everything about it – the playground, the blessing, the principal and staff, and especially the kids. It is so inclusive and Matt is absolutely right – so many of our kids learn so much better in the outdoors, running around, rather than in the classroom. This has been designed for learning and it is the perfect environment for that.

“I also love that it is a space for the whole community with the barbecues, the Pasifika fale, the canoe, the basketball pad – and it’s a primary school with a skatepark! It really is just beautiful.”

The new school building will be completed early next term, after which the two existing buildings will be demolished.

24 September 2020

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