As noted on Shore Country Day School’s web site, their “Lower School children are naturally joyful and curious, and the Shore experience plays off these innate characteristics. In Shore’s Lower School, children are given the time and space to be young children. Each child has the opportunity to grow at a developmentally appropriate pace, becoming a distinctive person while learning the skills to be a productive member of the community. In doing so, Shore students develop strong basic skills, the ability to work with others, a positive attitude about school, and the motivation and confidence needed to accomplish great things.”
While expanding the structure of the Lower School with Olson Lewis + Architects, Shore took the opportunity to recreate their existing playground with UBLA. The intent is to include the design of natural and structured play spaces in the vicinity of the existing playground, including the area known as the “Third Grade Field” and incorporate the paved emergency access path into the permanent design.
At it’s very best, nature play isn’t scheduled, planned, or led by adults, nor is it confined by grown-ups’ rules. Instead, it’s open-ended, free-time exploration and recreation, without close adult supervision. For many of us, this sort of nature play virtually defined our childhoods. – Green Hearts, Inc.
Based upon the Lower School master plan provided by the Client, UBLA collaborated with the Playground Task Force on the design of an engaging, innovative, safe playground focusing on nature play and creative play features built of sustainable materials. The team explored using natural and sustainable materials such as landform, wood, wood structures, and stone integrated with traditional play structures such as swings, slides, and basketball. The proposed playground provides opportunities for climbing, digging, and free play while being sensitive to the need for shade, adult visibility, and budget.
Key to the programming of the proposed spaces is an understanding of the level of interaction between the students and grounds. A review of existing conditions and how students and faculty currently engage this area, and how they desire to, was aided by site visits during recess times for observation. With a student group ranging from Pre-K/Readiness to fifth grade – and up to 200 students using the space at noon recess – play elements must be safe all ages but provide a bit of challenge for all levels. There is also a clear desire to maintain and expand upon popular elements such as the swings and playhouse, and include a “signature” piece every child will remember into adulthood.
Components were grouped so that a central paved space and “trike track” can be cleared of snow in winter for basketball, foursquare, and other recess games. This concept also allows Readiness students free play spaces including the sand pit and playhouse village adjacent to the classrooms. Taking advantage of the stockpile created by the building expansion, a berm will separate the play area from the Third Grade Field.
This berm will feature the new 9-ft height embankment slide and rolling hill, and provide a platform for the Columbia Cascade Clatter Bridge assembly with follow/chase and fitness activities. This two level hill allows faculty supervision of all areas of the playground and Third Grade Field will provide a natural boundary for younger students, as well as many opportunities for ‘free play’.
For long-term maintenance and sustainability, structures manufactured of steel and recycled plastic were selected. Playing off the existing (and very popular!) natural boulders on site, the playground will be edged with cut tree trunks and boulders. These elements provide seating and climbing opportunities, as well as plenty of nooks and crannies for exploration. Trunks will also be used to create a performance space adjacent to the Lower School Building.
Final pricing and material detailing are wrapping up this month, with construction scheduled for Summer 2013. UBLA will continue to work with the School’s Playground Task Force, Prime1 Landscaping, and JPLaRue throughout the construction process to insure that this exciting installation is completed for start of school.