Clare Strijack and other Unsworth students crowd around for a game of tic-tac-toe on a board embedded in a piece of playground equipment. (Eric J. Welsh/ Chilliwack Progress)

Clare Strijack and other Unsworth students crowd around for a game of tic-tac-toe on a board embedded in a piece of playground equipment. (Eric J. Welsh/ Chilliwack Progress)

Chilliwack-Kent MLA sees the results of playground funding

Kelli Paddon and a group of happy kids explored a recently-built playground at Unsworth Elementary

Never have a bunch of kids had more fun playing with a giant spider.

That’s what smiling, laughing kids at Unsworth Elementary call one of the structures at the school’s newest playground. The Spider (or Spider Web) is a framework of nets, perfect for climbing and hanging from, and Clare Strijack said that is what is so great about it.

“It’s because we’re kids, that’s why we like climbing,” the Unsworth student said with a grin.

The Spider, along with the rest of the playground, was built in 2019.

The provincial NDP government provided the money through the Playground Equipment Program, which was started in 2018 “to encourage outdoor physical activity and provide safe, accessible, inclusive spaces for children to play on and enjoy.”

Chilliwack-Kent MLA Kelli Paddon got her first look Tuesday morning (May 24) when she stopped by for a ‘tour.’

Students from Unsworth were happy to lead her around.

RELATED: New two-stage playground officially opens at Promontory Heights Community School

RELATED: Accessible playground coming to East Chilliwack elementary school

They showed her the Spider and the monkey bars and the slide, and she crowded in with a bunch of them on a piece of equipment called ‘Sway Fun.’

“You can play tic-tac-toe on this one,” said Unsworth student Isabelle Spice, pointing to a tic-tac-toe board built into the plastic. “That’s really fun.”

Paddon gave them a spin on something they call the ‘Spinny Thing,’ which lives up to its name.

While it would elicit dizziness and nausea in most adults, the kids couldn’t get enough of going around, and around and around and around.

“Kids deserve to be able to play, and outside is where they can be loud and laugh and jump around,” Paddon said. “Play is how we express ourselves when we’re little. That’s how we learn how to navigate social situations, and accessibility is a really big piece of that.

“Accessibility does cost money and it’s incredible that Chilliwack can benefit from this funding.”

Unsworth is one of several playgrounds that have been completed in Chilliwack in recent years, and more are coming.

Promontory Heights and East Chilliwack are up next and province-wide, $30-million has been spent to-date on 231 new playgrounds.

Chilliwack School Trustee David Swankey called it “an incredibly valued investment in the school and the community.”

“It really matters, and a fulsome education doesn’t just happen in the classroom,” he says, adding that playground expansions are even more valuable and necessary in schools that are at, or over, student capacity. “When we look at Unsworth, which has been beyond capacity for quite some time, it’s needed this for a while.”

“When we look at schools that have had additions like Promontory, they need those expanded and renewed outdoor play spaces, and it’s wonderful to see children reaping the benefits of this investment.”

One day Spice and her fellow Unsworth students might care about government funding, but right now they’re far too young to care what was spent on the playground. They’re just happy it’s there when they want it.

“I like it, especially the climbing spots,” she said. “It’s just fun to play on at recess and lunch.”


@ProgressSports
eric.welsh@hopestandard.com

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Unsworth Elementary principal Shawn McLeod joins students on the Spider (Web), a piece of playground equipment that is tremendously popular with the kids. (Eric J. Welsh/ Chilliwack Progress)

Unsworth Elementary principal Shawn McLeod joins students on the Spider (Web), a piece of playground equipment that is tremendously popular with the kids. (Eric J. Welsh/ Chilliwack Progress)

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