Good crowd funding garden of Mitcham
Fetes, chocolate drives and raffle tickets are the traditional way for schools to fundraise, but crowdfunding offers a simple way to reach the community, without leaving your lounge room, Carolyn Boyd tells Clare Kennedy
Harnessing the power of a crowdfunding platform has reaped terrific benefits for one enterprising primary school in Adelaide.
Carolyn Boyd is the parent of two young children at Mitcham Primary School in Adelaide. An experienced journalist who understands the power of social media, she is also the driver behind her children's school campaign to raise funds to transform a weedy patch of land on the school oval into a stimulating natural playground for 700 students and the local community.
The initial target of $3000, already reached, allows the school to clear the weeds, make a dry rock and sand river and a mud digging patch. Over time, trimmings from large gum trees on the school property will be used as play elements in the area and recycled materials will be used to fashion whimsical forms such as insects and creatures.
The next goal of $9000 will let the school plant several hundred native seedlings, protected by mulch. And in time, the school hopes to raise enough to commission sculptor Glen Romanis to carve wooden wombats and echidnas for the children to sit and play on, she explains.
The overall aim is to design a space that will be used by school children and the community, making it a resource for everyone.
Given the disturbing statistics – which show that children spend an average of four hours a day looking at screens – and research that demonstrates children need outdoors play to fully develop their potential, such a garden offers terrific physical and emotional benefits.
Back to basics
There is an international push towards 'nature play', which is all about going back to the common sense days of old, where children went outside and played with things they found on the ground, explains Boyd. "In a school setting, that means we have to reimagine the school playground and re–educate both families and teachers that some of these types of play are okay.
"We want to give permission to children to run through the garden and play with the plants, to use natural objects to create play spaces that aren't just blue and yellow metal equipment," she adds. It's about sensory input, the kids touching and feeling, she explains. "Some children actually physically need to do that, to get out and dig in the dirt and build things with sticks, and climb trees."
For Boyd, there is a personal driver too. Her seven–year–old son, who suffers from a mild sensory processing disorder, is one of many who will benefit from the naturally stimulating environment.
"Some children have difficulty processing the information they receive from their surroundings," she says. "Often these children are labelled as badly behaved. However, nature play helps to meet lot of their needs and their behaviour improves," she explains.
At Mitcham Primary School, teachers use a variety of techniques that provide sensory stimulation. "The teacher will let the child build letters out of clay, rather than writing the words down, because that's giving the child the sensory input. Other children benefit from sitting on wobble chairs. They need that bit of movement to calm themselves down or to get that input."
Boyd used Facebook and Twitter to encourage donations for the project in tandem with crowd–funding platform Pozible. That site, which charges five per cent of the total funds raised up to $100k, was used to widely advertise the campaign and to provide a platform for donations.
Supporters reap rewards
Boyd's decision to use the crowdfunding platform came about when Landcare was seeking an organisation willing to try the method to raise funds for a good cause. The use of the platform also brought out a list of supporters who were pleased to have their logos advertised on the site after they donated goods and services such as plants, soil and cement.
For those who want to give the platform a go, Boyd has this advice: "You woudn't necessarily get rid of other ways of fundraising," she says. "It's just another way to reach out to a different group of people who may be time poor, and who don't want to spend time selling raffle tickets. The key is to market it well and be prepared to spend a lot of time talking with people about how it works and reminding them to donate while the campaign is live.
"You also need to brave in setting how much you want to raise – don't set it too low or too high but do make it a stretch."
So far the school community has raised nearly $3500. Works on the first stage of the plan are due to start in May. If you would like to find out more about this project go to pozible.com/inspiremitcham
Carolyn Boyd is an Adelaide-based journalist and a member of Media Super.