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TMSS aims to revitalize school grounds with playscape project

The revitalization project aims to establish a community gathering place that will extend beyond the school walls.

TISDALE — The Tisdale Middle & Secondary School (TMSS) and its School Community Council is leading fundraising efforts to revitalize its school grounds with a new natural playscape project.

“The revitalization project will establish a community gathering place that will extend beyond the school walls and will be designed by grounded research that promotes physical literacy, creativity, co-operation, environmentally sustainable behaviours and improved mental health,” said TMSS Vice-Principal Dallas Thiessen, who also has a background and education in designing these types of spaces.

The North East School Division, Town of Tisdale and the School Community Council are all on board with this project, the vice-principal said.

“Our shared leadership framework has incorporated feedback from students, staff, and the community to design an outdoor space that is innovative, educational, and sustainable.”

Thiessen has designed other outdoor areas for schools in Regina, and has been a champion of redesigning schoolyards to be more in tune with nature and connecting children to the outdoors.

In a PowerPoint presentation Thiessen created, it explains playscapes elicit hands-on, multisensory, unique and personal experiences for children where nature is the focus, not man-made materials. Areas within the playscapes are designed to be open-minded with multiple and divergent uses, materials and spaces are not designed to be used in pre-determined ways. Selected playscape plants and materials are ones that can be found in nature, preferably indigenous to the local landscape. Playscape materials provide opportunities to be touched, manipulated, dug, moved, picked, dammed, climbed, built, and experienced by children as they choose to do so. Playscapes are built to encourage risk-taking, investigation, language, sensory experiences, child-directed dramatic and themed play, and collaborative and active play.

This massive project entails many new and exciting ideas for the kids in Tisdale. The first phase of the project is an amphitheatre with the topography and site design will need to be taken into account to ensure the best use of the entire space. The following phases, featuring an outdoor classroom, natural climber, public trail system linking to the Doghide Trails, updating the front of the school, and improvements made to TMSS track and field spaces, will depend on funding, said Thiessen.

Their master plan uses the Innovative, Educational, Sustainable, and Culturally Responsive Guide to Playground design model. Thiessen has presented at conferences and has received provincial and national recognition and awards for his innovative concept plans on play structures and land.

The preliminary master plan budget from 2021 had an estimated total around $700,000 with contingencies. The NESD does not fund projects for outdoor spaces, playgrounds, play equipment so the entire project is requiring local fundraising. Fundraisers to have already been underway, which included an online auction with Bruce Schapansky Auctioneers, which was organized by the School Community Council led by Lynn Murray.

Several community members have already made monetary donations to the project. Grants have also been applied for and the project received a boost of $25,000 from the CN. The committee is currently busy applying for several other grants and are hopeful in receiving some approvals on those. More fundraisers are in the works but currently none at the time of this article. Sponsorship opportunities for the business community will be announced soon.

If you are interested in supporting the project, Thiessen said to phone the school at 306-873-2352 or email

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