Living, learning and playing together in the school yard

− in the heart of ethnically diverse Pendrecht, a neighbourhood of Rotterdam

Living, learning and playing together in the school yard

The Beatrix School is a primary school with 275 pupils located in Rotterdam's Pendrecht district. It was originally a Protestant faith-based school but, just like the surrounding area, the Beatrix School has since become a multicultural melting pot in which at least 30 different nationalities rub shoulders with each other. All the pupils play together on the large playground that stretches in front of the school building and on the two additional playgrounds that have been designed specifically for the needs of younger children. Until 2006, the school's playground had little to offer the children in terms of encouraging them to play − not unlike the neighbourhood itself. The district is dominated by high-rise buildings and there is a dearth of green open spaces, so it was no wonder that so few children showed any inclination to use what play equipment was on offer during breaks and after lessons. It was thus clear that a revitalisation was overdue; fortunately, a recently forged alliance between various local organisations and authorities made it possible to implement the plans. Kompan was appointed to the task of constructing a child-friendly play area.

Together with the two other primary schools in Pendrecht, the Beatrix School entered into negotiations with the district committee of the local borough of Charlois, the city council of Rotterdam, the Dutch 'Nieuwe Unie' housing association and the 'Playspel ' foundation. "Luckily, our concepts for the new play area merged seamlessly with existing projects designed to enhance the image of our district," explains Joop Verschoor, who began his career as a teacher at the Beatrix School back in 1970. For example, local buildings are currently being renovated as part of the 'Pendrecht's moving forward' program. There are other activities that are injecting new life into the community, such as the construction of a so-called 'Kids' Campus', an innovative child-friendly residential, learning and play zone that is positioned between Pendrecht's three primary schools. It is clear that schemes of this kind will make Pendrecht much more attractive for potential residents while improved play facilities at its schools can only add to its appeal.

It is important to listen

A wide range of stakeholders were involved in the transformation of the playground of the Beatrix School, whereby Joop Verschoor acted as initiator and manager of the project. He decided to commission Kompan as the exclusive supplier for the new play areas of the renovated playgrounds. He chose Kompan not only because of the wide variety of play equipment in its range − although that factor did play an important role. "It's quite clear that Kompan's products are the most attractive and that they are of a particularly high quality. But what was more important for us was the fact that the consultants from the Kompan Play Institute in Zaltbommel displayed genuine interest in the concerns of parents and teachers. Aspects they brought up, such as the appropriate use of space and the provision of a suitable surfacing material, were subsequently incorporated in the final plan."

In 2006, the whole playground underwent a makeover and was provided with several new larger pieces of play equipment that many children could use simultaneously, including a slide and the 'Enif' climbing and rocking frame that is part of Kompan's Galaxy product range. But other aspects apart from play were not ignored, including safety. It is essential to ensure that a playground is safe for its users and this is all the more important in a city district where there is always a lot of traffic. The school itself is thus surrounded by a high fence, while the play equipment is located well away from the road and the trees.

In the heart of the community

Rotterdam's city council declared itself willing to contribute towards Joop Verschoor's plans for the redesign and renovation of the Beatrix School playground, but only if one specific proviso was met; namely, the project had to benefit the district as a whole. In other words, the new school facilities were not to be just accessible for the pupils of the Beatrix School but also for other target groups, such as other children living locally and their parents. And Verschoor’s team were able to meet this requirement − something that is particularly important in view of the fact that the surrounding high rise flats have no outdoor areas where children can play. "In the evenings and at weekends, you'll find the local residents sitting on the benches around the large trees watching their children climbing and sliding," observes Verschoor. "But we also have supervisors there in the afternoon so that children can continue to use it after school before they go home. We now have the Beatrix School exactly where it should be − right in the heart of the community."


Images: Kompan
 

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