New playground a hit for all ages

Learning tool . . . South Canterbury Museum educators Ruth Gardiner (left) and Keely Kroening have embraced Cplay as a new learning tool. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED

The new Caroline Bay playground is proving 15 times more popular than its predecessor.

Timaru District Council parks and recreation manager Bill Steans said the playground — which officially opened in December — was drawing visitors from Canterbury, Otago and Southland for repeat visits.

Those using the facility ranged from 2 to 92 years old, and at times, the number of people enjoying CPlay had been impossible to count.

‘‘On occasions there have been more people using the playground than the thousands attending the free [Caroline Bay] carnival concerts.

Mr Steans said the playground was in use from dawn to dusk.

‘‘It has been difficult to find time to clean and inspect equipment. The popularity of CPlay is 15 times that of the previous playground at the same site. This is evidenced by having to install additional bins for waste and recycling.’’

CPlay is also the latest educational tool for the Heritage Education Service, based at the South Canterbury Museum.

Making learning fun . . . Waimataitai School children learn and play at CPlay.

Schools can explore the $3 million community-built playground to learn about local history from mana whenua creation stories right through to the daring rescues performed by the Rocket Brigade in the 1870s.

Museum educators expand on the stories introduced by the playground with free programmes that align with recent changes made to the government curriculum, emphasising local history.

CPlay volunteer Rose Fauth said a ‘‘story circle’’ with informative signs was under development and would feature local art and artefacts from galleries and museums to help locals and visitors learn more as they played.

Mrs Fauth has worked alongside the museum educators to develop a guide that helps explain the stories that inspired CPlay. The guide is available from the South Canterbury Museum, Timaru Information Centre or the CPlay website.

Mrs Fauth said the community wanted to see local stories in the playground, and the committee had worked hard to learn about the Timaru district and the history and stories of Caroline Bay.

‘‘We are grateful for the support we have received from The South Canterbury Museum, Aigantighe Art Gallery and Timaru District Libraries, Arowhenua, Te Ana Rock Art Centre and the many teachers and students who helped us identify what to include in the playground to help make our locals’ and visitors’ play even more meaningful.

‘‘It is an unusual approach, and we are already seeing students visiting the playground and learning about where we live.’’