Slide 0
Slide 1
Slide 2
Slide 6
Slide 7
18.02.2019 - Ausgabe: 1/2019

In the digital age exercising playfully is indispensable!


Playing at the race track


As the first school in Bavaria the primary and secondary school of Thalmässing which is situated in the Roth district of Central Franconia in Germany has been awarded the Jakob Muth Prize in 2016, which is based on an initiative of the German government in cooperation with the Bertelsmann Foundation and the German UNESCO Commission. The prize is awarded to those schools which implement inclusion in an exemplary way by providing their students with high-level education thus enabling them to make full use of their potential. "At the primary and secondary school of Thalmässing, inclusion is noticeable and reflected in the acting of all persons involved and in all different grades. Currently 310 students of grades 1 to 9, 32 of them with a focus on different needs, are taught together while, at the same time, all of the children with their individual uniqueness, different strengths and weaknesses are considered as being equal. That is how the students of this school can learn right from the beginning that diversity is something extremely valuable. After the fourth year at school, 75 per cent of the children receive a recommendation for secondary education leading to GCSE or for the German Gymnasium leading to the university entrance diploma and thus leave the school with a feeling of increased self-confidence". As was said during the award ceremony.


A special focus of the Thalmässing school is on joint cross-class teaching. In addition, they have a so-called open door-policy, which means that during the sessions of free learning time the students are allowed to move freely within the school building and to form study groups either in the corridors, in classrooms or in the school auditorium. By doing so, the primary school pupils are supported by the seventh-grade students. The project is called "We practise and study together." Nevertheless, it is not only the young pupils who benefit from this uncomplicated knowledge transfer, but also the older students due to the associated high appreciation and strengthened self-confidence.


Playing together

The idea of "joint learning" is continued in the outdoor area by "playing and exercising together". Last year, new play facilities were installed meant to be used not only for school purposes but also by the entire community.

During the design planning of this area, the special challenge consisted in creating a facility which should attract everybody to play and exercise, from young children to teenage youths. The playground was to be installed along the race track for break times during everyday school life, for the day-care centre and for leisure activities of the entire regional population. In addition, it had to be thematically linked with the name of the future playground "Adjacent to the Race Track".

Mayor Georg Küttinger is convinced that this playground is something very special. Instead of installing small devices at several sites, the municipality and the church congregations, as responsible authorities for the day care centre, decided to have only one common place. " For us, this means more playing opportunities and better equipment while at the same time we are saving money."

Technical advisor Christina Bergsteiner of the Company SIK Holz GmbH designed a gaming concept according to the tale of the race between the hare and the hedgehog. This tale represented a good thematic connection between the place described in the tale and the respective area to be created. Both are places where races take place. In addition, the tale offers ideas about how to divide the playground for the two different user groups.

According to the tale, the hedgehog is the slower one of the figures of the legend and thus acting rather cautiously. Hence the area for the one to six-year-olds is equipped with a low hill climb with firmly installed balancing elements. This area merges with a more challenging balancing bridge and leads to two 1.5-metre-high platforms with different entrances and exits. Easy or difficult exercises can be practised by the primary school pupils at the integrated horizontal double bars. In order to allow beginners to access the bars easily, the middle post was designed as a climbing pole. The two playing towers of this playground area are equipped with high and half-height side walls at the lower end. Thus, areas are created which take over the function of play houses by allowing the users to withdraw and have a rest. The additional equipment with tables and benches, bollards and bars stimulates a variety of role plays.

The play area called Hase (*German term for hare) has been designed for the 6 to14-year-old students. Similar to a rope course, the children can balance and climb on new ways with varying degrees of difficulty and resting points. A special sporting challenge is given by the grabbing garland and the many rope loops which can only be mastered by children in good physical condition. There is a constant change of firmly installed and moving elements on the obstacle course requiring the permanent attention of the children. For this area, too, a slide was to be installed as signal that the goal has been reached and to reward the children after having managed this demanding ascent. For those children wanting to slide extensively after arriving at the playground, there is also a fast route to the slide via the vertical rung stairs. Of course, there is also a swing which should be part of every playground. In this case, too, a bird's nest swing is much more popular than swings with standard seats. Thus, several children can be swinging together, which at the same time helps to create social contacts and also increases the fun factor. It was also the specific wish to design devices for team building measures between the two large facilities. Hence, the wave-rocker is particularly well-suited for this purpose. Here, the children assist each other in balancing until they manage the approximately six-metre long balancing route alone or at least almost alone. In addition, this game can be observed from the chilling bench installed next to the wave rocker. There is also a three-part large net next to the installation for the children to lie on and relax and outbalance the soft swinging motions while at the same time watching what is going on.

Together with Pastor Frank Zimmer and the Catholic Priest Josef Schierl, Pastor Rudolf Hackner took over the Church's part in the inauguration. His speech was inspired by the name of the playground "Adjacent to the Race Track" and referred to interesting parallels found in the Letter to the Corinthians. In this text, the Christians are encouraged to run in a competition in a way which helps them win the victory wreath. "Everyone should test themselves as to their capabilities. Do your best, be physically active and do sports," said Pastor Rudolf Hackner. He also pointed out that not everyone is able to win. "But if you train hard every day and give each other mutual support, all of you can achieve their individual goals. This also applies to the school career." And Pastor Hackner had brought a victory wreath to the opening ceremony.

Klaus Neumann, Managing Director of the day care centres, assessed the playground as "just plain cool". He regretted that he had not come to the inauguration ceremony in jogging pants and sneakers, because he would have liked to test the play equipment. In the name of the Deanery, Neumann expressed his thanks for this project. Particularly now in our digitised world it is of utmost importance for children and youngsters to exercise in nature. "That is important for the health and healthy development of our children." He added that the German word begreifen (understand in English) refers to the German meaning of the word anfassen (touch in English). Finally, he invited the children to immediately conquer this place.



Hence, in Thalmässing a central meeting point to the benefit of children of all ages has been established. During the inauguration ceremony Mayor Georg Küttinger praised the new playground by saying "This place is a gain for all parties involved. It enhances the recreational value of Thalmässing and it provides the regional childcare facilities with additional play opportunities”.

The costs of the playground which have been covered by the municipality and partly by the church communities went up to approximately 65,000 euros which is even less than originally calculated. According to the mayor the construction of the playground was only the first construction phase. In addition, it is planned to build a direct access to the residential area until the end of 2018. Furthermore, the hard court and the race course should also be renewed.


Text: Claudia Gust (SIK Holz)
Photo by Christina Bergsteiner, Andrea Karch


Mehr zum Thema Schoolyard Design


Schoolyard Design

School grounds in the sense of "Play for all"

Changing lifestyles and working environments make it that children spend increasingly more time at school. Accordingly, the school building and the relevant open space are not only learning but also important living spaces...


Schoolyard Design

High up in the sky

The Katharinen school in Hamburg's HafenCity has a school playground on its roof


Schoolyard Design

The Laakirchen Playground Concept

Participatory project for the all-day school and the public play and open spaces in the Austrian paper city.


Schoolyard Design

SCHOOL GROUNDS - more physical activity at schools and daycare centres

Presentation at the Sportinfra 2020 expert forum "Modern sports infrastructure in urban areas".


Schoolyard Design

Steyrdorf school – a school garden created with labour, love and learning

Among the many school gardens that we have designed in the 30 years that we have been active this garden stands out in many aspects. In first place is the...