The Children First Playground: Where Arctic Kids Can Dream
Melinda Gillis and Terry Halifax
Children First Society
October 17, 2012
The Dream | Seven years ago a small group of concerned parents in the remote Arctic community of Inuvik, NWT came together with a common dream: to provide the families of Inuvik with high-quality pre-school care in a purpose-built childcare space. They rallied the entire community to make the dream – named the Children's First Centre – become reality. But a major piece is missing: the playground. To get that playground, we need your help.
Community Impact | The Children's First Centre was born out of the desperate childcare situation in Inuvik. Programs were regularly moved from one makeshift location to the next. The uncertainty impacted the programs' ability to meet the community's childcare needs. It became increasingly difficult to attract and retain staff. Equipment was routinely damaged in the moves. And a shortage of space left families with no available pre-school education option.
The Children's First Centre will address these challenges head on: it will double available early childhood education spaces to 120; it will provide a permanent home in a bright, modern building; in turn, it will help us attract and retain staff who will be able to focus on improving our kids' futures.
But no childcare centre can be complete without a playground.
All studies point to learning through play as a key builder of cognitive and social skills in a child’s life. Research shows that preschoolers need two classrooms: one indoor and one outdoor. Like the indoor classroom, the outdoor play area should be a carefully planned learning environment that encourages motor and social skills development; that refines existing cognitive structures while constructing new ones. Used in this way, the outdoor play environment provides a basis for observational assessments in all areas of development. Additionally, with childhood obesity on the rise and Type II diabetes reaching near-epidemic proportions in the North, exercise for our children is more important than ever. An outdoor play area will keep our children active and help reduce the occurrence of these diseases in our community.
Likelihood of Success | Building in the Arctic is expensive: design and land acquisition alone cost $400,000; it will cost $6.5 million to complete the building. Getting to construction was no easy task, but the community has given selflessly. Despite a population of less than 3500, half of the project's cost has been raised through non-governmental sources. Local businesses have given cash, materials and labour. Individuals from all ages and income levels have donated. Of the remaining funds, the Town of Inuvik and the Government of the Northwest Territories have contributed $2.3- and $1.1-million, respectively.
We are moving quickly towards opening in September 2013: Phase 1 – Building design/land acquisition: $400,000 (Complete)Phase 2 – Building construction: $6,500,000 (In progress, completion: June 2013)Phase 3a – Land preparation/AVIVA Playground installation: $120,000 (Completion: August 2013)Phase 3b – Natural play area/final landscaping: $130,000 (Completion: October 2013)We estimate $256,000 is needed to install playground equipment and create a free-play friendly landscape. The Canadian Mental Health Association - Inuvik Branch has donated $40,000 for Phase 3a. Bob's Welding, a local contractor, has donated $31,000 in materials for preparing the playground land. All that is missing is funding for the playground equipment. With $50,000 from the Aviva Community Fund, we will purchase durable, exciting and versatile playground equipment for our children. Phase 3b is $135,000 for landscaping of a natural play area, including fencing and lighting for our children's safety, to compliment the Aviva Playground. We hope the Broker's Prize will support, fully or in part, this important final piece to the dream.Longevity and Sustainability | Inuvik, incorporated in 1967, has nearly 40 years of pre-school education history. Each of the major childcare programs in Inuvik will come together under the Children First Society umbrella to occupy the space. The Children First Society, a non-profit charity registered under the NWT Societies Act, will govern the Children's First Centre. Our estimated annual operating cost is $1.2 million and will be off set by enrolment fees, existing government grants and fundraising.