Whenever I see a child working with such intensity and purpose, I am reminded of the power of the human spirit.
This stump will be moved!
It has been a while since I posted to my blog, but not because I haven’t been writing. I just completed two courses at Montgomery College, and both required long term papers based on very specific content requirements. My creative energy was sapped.
But when I came across an article in the New York Times on the Carnegie Museum’s Playground Project on the history of playground design, I began to feel free enough to write again.
The article traces the roots of the Evergreen Garden and Playground concept to the Danish landscape architect in the 1930′s named Carl Theodor Sorensen. According to the Times, Sorensen, ”advanced the radical notion that children were happiest when playing with junk.” Toward the end of World War II, he began designing playgrounds that encouraged children to build, dig and create with natural and man-made materials including bricks and building debris. He called these new spaces skrammellegeplads or “junk playgrounds.”
Whether writing, building, cooking, making music or any other creative pursuit, we all need a skrammellegeplad… a safe place to play and try things out.
Learning and playing are acts of freedom. It is great to be free.
The Evergreen community spent an enchanted evening “down the rabbit hole” at the Wonderland Auction on April 27. Thanks to the creative energy of our wonderful auction committee, guests were treated to phantasmagorical night like no other.
Cheers to all the volunteers and supporters who made the event possible.
Special thanks to Kim Cantor, Donna Kerr, Anke Mann, Jen Rusiecki, Joy McCarty, Cori Lathan, and Christopher Mattox for their organizational skills and pure energy.
Over $10,000 was raised to support the children and programs of Evergreen School, including $3,500 direct support for our playground and garden.
See the gallery below and more event pictures here.
Happy Earth Day!
Did you know our Rain Garden and playground were purposefully designed to allow children the chance to play in a natural environment? It is no surprise that our children are drawn to organic materials like stumps, logs, water and boulders. The garden is alive with sand and dirt, bugs and bark, mulberries and mulch. Last week we enhanced the garden with berry bushes, groundscaping and more. Within the next week, we will be sharing more plans to enhance the play space with more hands on materials to compliment the climbers, jungle gym, and monkey bars already installed.
Our garden is growing!
Learning through the senses, a key part of Evergreen’s approach to learning.
Originally printed in the GreenWheaton Newsletter, May 2012
Evergreen School is hosting their second Green Symposium on May 19. The program is designed for the school’s families and will feature class performances, hands-on environmental activities and representatives from local green advocacy organizations. John DeMarchi, the Head of School says, “It is a great opportunity for the school to promote environmentally sustainable practices by our families.”
This year’s Symposium honors the second anniversary of their prize-winning Rain Garden. The Garden was won an honor at the 25th annual Keep Montgomery County Beautiful (KMCB) award ceremony held by The Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) last fall.
The contest was designed to encourage those in Montgomery County to undertake landscape activities and neighborhood beautification projects that improve the overall appearance of the County. MCDOT supports beauty without toxicity by encouraging landscaping projects that utilize conservation measures which keep pesticides and fertilizers out of local streams and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.
Evergreen’s landscaping project involved transforming its playground into a sustainable rain garden using only native plant species. The new landscape design prevents polluted run-off rain water from flowing into the storm water system and eventually into the Chesapeake Bay by channeling it from the school’s parking lot through a filtration swale and catch basin. Over the course of a year, pounds of pollutants are kept out of creek and river systems.
Mr. DeMarchi says, “The natural elements on the playground enable children to have intimate encounters with rain drops, earthworms and dandelions. The playground does more than provide a place for safe, physical play. It exposes children to natural elements—such as rocks, logs, water and other features that stimulate the senses.” As Maria Montessori understood, we learn directly from our senses—thus sensual experiences are the foundation for learning.
Our elementary and academic afternoon students participated in a hoop-a-thon, jump rope-a-thon and more today. The event was planned by elementary students who chose to support Amman Imman for their work in the Azawak region of Niger and Mali. Learn more at: http://www.ammanimman.org
Should we re-design playgrounds for the iPad era?
Before we tackle that question, just imagine how sad the world would be without playgrounds. For almost all of history, there were none. It wasn’t until 1887 that the first one in North America was constructed in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.
The rapid growth of cities at the end of the Nineteenth Century obliged the construction of urban play spaces. As families left farming communities for city life, children found themselves without trees to climb, rocks to hop, or hills to scramble. Change was needed, and in 1907 Teddy Roosevelt used his bully pulpit to advocate for city playgrounds in Washington.
Now, 100 years later, technological change requires us once again to rethink our outdoor play. Richard Louv points out in his seminal book, Last Child in the Woods, children today are disconnected from the natural world. Louv, horrified, relates the story of child who told him, “I like to play indoors better ´cause that’s where all the electric outlets are.” Louv documents the emotional and existential distress caused by too little exposure to the natural, physical world. Air conditioning, iPhones, and the internet have made it harder for all of us to have intimate encounters with rain drops, earthworms and dandelions. Yet our souls need these encounters to center and balance us.
These days, playgrounds must do more than provide a place for safe, physical play. They must also expose children to natural elements—such as rocks, logs, water and other features that stimulate the senses. As Maria Montessori understood, we learn directly from our senses—thus sensual experiences are the foundation for learning. Most modern, industrial playgrounds are constructed of painted steel frames careful constructed more for their Consumer Product Safety Rating score than their organic, natural elements. Even the New York Times asked “Can a Playground be Too Safe” ( NYT, 7/19/2011) .
Fortunately, there are many educational leaders who understand the needs of children to experience the natural world. Last week, Lesley Romanoff, the director of the Takoma Park Cooperative Nursery School showed me her school’s fantastic play space; it has a squirrel bridge, tea house, canoe and creek bed. She directed me to Springzaad, an online network of teachers, nature educators, public servants, landscape architects, and horticulturists who are promoting natural space for children to play. Springzaad advocates elements such as herb gardens, shelters, rafts and more.
At the one year anniversary of the Evergreen School Rain Garden, I find deeper appreciation for the wisdom of our play space design. Even more wonderful than seeing Evergreen students floating wood chips down our creek, planting in the vegetable garden, hopping on logs, stepping stones and hiding among our native grasses—it is awesome to see children’s connection to nature deepened, even in our suburban patch of Wheaton/Silver Spring.
There are some things you just can’t do on an iPad.
You can see more pictures of our Rain Garden on our Pintrest page.