A bit of history...
Our school has quite small grounds. The largest single area, bounded by our pergola, playground equipment, sandpit and shrubs, was for years home to struggling and mostly dead grass. Two years ago the school decided to put effort into trialing better maintained grass which involved large effort in churning the area, laying turf, buying a bore, installing reticulation, applying top dressing and other regular maintenance.
The new grass was an outstanding success and popular with everyone. We could do handstands on it, run on it, sit on it, skip on it, pretend to be rabbits on it and generally admire it.
Unfortunately, despite all our work and money, the first yearís grass was back to desert by the end of third term. It's not surprising, considering the constant use it had.
The grass started to struggle and eventually turned back into a sandpit.
We determined to give it one more go with a different grass variety and more restrictions on the use of this area.
There were always multiple, sometimes competing, uses for this space including; drinking in the greenness while sitting nearby, sitting on it to have lunch, chat or cuddle the guinea pigs, and playing individual, small or larger group games. Games ranged from low impact to high including skipping, football, soccer and chasey.
Our students have been informed and given the opportunity to express their point of view on ďthe grass issueĒ with some students having very strong opinions. It was felt that the more extreme represented a vocal minority but also a valid concern. Players showed different levels of willingness to modify the game or the frequency or intensity at which it was played, in consideration for other people or the grass itself.
Some games were rationed. This was to give the grass some chance of survival and to allow other use. It was also considered dangerous, with balls sometimes hitting people in adjoining areas.
We formalised the regular use of local parks to overcome the lack of vigorous play space but some Ďgrass resentmentí remains.
In term 4, 2005 we wrote down ideas, used discussion and active listening and reflecting to attempt to walk in each others shoes. We still donít agree on the best use, completely, but most of us have shown greater empathy with other views and looked a bit beyond the personal.
Some of our studentsí ideas on the best use of the grass
Playing Sport eg soccer, cricket, football
It is fun and playful
You would not hurt yourself if you fall, not like on the concrete
Our ball skills will get heaps better
It's good for hearts and all fitness
The boys get to play footy and learn to be part of a team
It's fun to watch and then join in games if you like them
Skipping is nicer on the grass than on harder concrete and there is more room
Points against vigorous games on the grass include...
The grass will die or be badly damaged
You canít sit on the grass or play with one or two people while running or kicking is taking place
Some times people get hit or plates broken when they are having lunch or just sitting nearby or under the pergola
Softer use of the grass is best
The grass can tolerate more people sitting or playing games like bowls, for longer
Different things can be done at one time
More people probably use it for games
Itís safer for other children and adults
Points against this include...
A lot of kids miss out on their favourite games and get bored
We donít get as fit
Why have grass if you arenít allowed to use it?
There are other places to eat lunch but not to play footy within the school grounds
Another suggestion was the best use of the grass would be to feed it to a cow
The cow will fertilise the grass
The cow will enjoy eating the grass and living with us
We’ll get lots of milk
When it dies (naturally) we can make burgers
It might have a baby we could look after and give away or sell
Points against the cow included...
We couldn’t play as many games except cow chasey
They would be too many turds which would smell and bring flies
Not enough grass so we would need to buy food or a paddock
It might trample the guinea pigs and step on us
It could eat our break food
Who would care for it during the holidays; water, extra food, etc.
At the end of 2005 the grass was alive and required only a few patches of roll on lawn to help it regroup over the break. The best use of the grass is not a question we can easily answer and is bound to be the subject of ongoing discussion, with people's priorities and values being tested, needs considered and creative problem solving required, to cater for the wishes of individuals and the group, short and long term.