Over two years ago, the Early Childhood teachers at the Waldorf School of Garden City were asked by then Administrator, Susan Braun, to dream big. They were tasked with imagining what an ideal playground would look like for the Mixed-Age Kindergarten children. With this special assignment in mind, the teachers rolled up their sleeves and began to work. According to Early Childhood Chair, Keelah Helwig, many factors were considered when designing the space. “Knowing that the potential for outdoor play exceeds the typical ‘recess’ experience, we were eager to maintain the natural beauty of our ample outdoor space, and create areas that invite children to explore and invent, to challenge emerging physical capacities, to practice healthy risk-taking and support their developing senses.”
In 2018, the team met with architects and play space designers to walk them through their imagined playground. They shared with the designers what brought the children joy, and described how vital open-ended play was for the developing child. The architects and designers listened, observed the children in play, and presented the School with ideas, sketches, and equipment. “We marveled at what was presented and stood in awe of what would be,” recalled Ms. Helwig.
Ground broke on the new space as soon as classes were dismissed in June 2019, and work continued on the playground throughout the summer. With the help of the School’s Facilities Department, and alumnus Kevin McAndrew ‘78, Partner at Cameron Engineering, the teachers’ dreams turned into a reality.
While visiting the School over the summer to check on the developing space, Ms. Helwig was astounded by what she saw. “It was as if I was waking from a dream. The space was brimming with life! Plants were swaying in the breeze, bright yellow flowers were reaching up to the sun, a giant log—big enough for a teacher to crawl through—lay beckoning for children to come climb and discover. Tremendous boulders, hills, and winding pathways revealed themselves as my gaze spanned the space. All were held by a beautiful cedar fence, framed by dark green bushes. The new playground is a sight to behold, and we could not be more pleased and excited to share it with our children in September,” she said.
The Early Childhood teachers are thankful to everyone involved in the creation of the new playground. “We owe a debt of gratitude to Susan Braun, who served as Project Manager, as well as Kevin McAndrew ’78 and the architect designers from Cameron Engineering. Our thanks extends to Fred Rhoads, Victor Rivera, and Carlos Ayala who supported the construction teams, and to Chris McCarthy, a current parent, who lovingly created our mud kitchens. We are forever grateful to our generous community for this tremendous gift that will benefit our Early Childhood children for years and years to come.”
Thank you to all of our donors that contributed to this project or attended an event in support of the renovation.