Close to 200 students at Chiganois Elementary School, as well as the surrounding community, will have access to a new outdoor mud kitchen constructed at the school and opened last month. In the spring, the project will see an outdoor classroom included, as well as a trail surrounding the play structure. Submitted photo

MASSTOWN – After a couple of months of Mother Nature toying with the weather, the mud kitchen at Chiganois Elementary School has finally opened.

The mud kitchen was officially launched on Dec. 3, with students celebrating the play structure.

Jennifer McKay, the head of the school’s parent-teacher group, said the idea was brought to the forefront by a teacher through a program called Loose Parts Play.

“The teachers have received training in Loose Parts Play – it’s not such that it’s structured play, but they use their imagination more and invent things while playing,” said McKay. “When the idea initially came through, the parent-teacher group was on board.”

This is the second time McKay has been involved with the creation of such a play structure – she was on the committee to have one created at the Lower Onslow Community Centre, which opened this past year.

At the school, the mud kitchen was the second of three phases, with the first being a shed constructed to store things such as ropes and tires the students can take out to play with.

“The mud kitchen is the pride and joy of the project,” she said, adding it’s been fun to see the Chignecto-Central Regional Centre for Education’s support on the first mud kitchen at one of the centre’s properties.

“We’ve got this really cool shark on it – the school is the Chiganois Sharks, so it’s pretty neat. There are logs to play on or have tea parties on as well.”

McKay said the construction on the mud kitchen started in October, but with cold temperatures and a few snow storms, it pushed the opening of the project to later in the year.

The third and final phase to the project is an outdoor classroom, with plans in the works to have that created in the New Year.

“We’re excited to hopefully see it all finished in the spring,” she said, adding an outdoor trail surrounding the space will also be constructed.

The school is home to about 190 students from grades Primary to 5, with a pre-primary class as well. The mud kitchen is fully accessible, and approved for ages two and older.

McKay said it was funded through a number of sources, such as provincial and municipal grants, with parents, volunteers and businesses stepping up to donate materials, equipment, and manual labour.

“The principal was there a lot, as were parents,” she said.

Businesses contributing included Glenholme Ready Mix, Masstown Hardware, Putnam Farm, Aggregate Equipment, and Cobequid Trail Consulting. Michael Alan contributed the shark head sculpture.