This summer City of Lakes Waldorf School will make a major renovation to the school play yard on our Whittier Campus. The vision for an expanded green space and redesigned play areas has been many years in the making. The new play space is carefully designed to best serve our growing school and provide distinct areas for outdoor activity and education. Classroom learning and the health of the student community are directly enhanced by the students’ time outdoors moving, playing, and socializing each day.
The project includes several major features including:
- Creating an expanded early childhood play area with climbing boulders and slide that connects the early childhood side yard (south of the building) directly to the larger play space (or “Big Yard”)
- An animal mosaic between the side yard and the expanded early childhood play space
- The transformation of the old black top alley into a plaza area and gather space for all
- The addition of a grass bermed amphitheater on the west end of the grass play field
- The addition of a bell tower that functions as the play yard entrance from the parking lot
- The addition of a Flow Form water feature
- The addition of climbing boulders in the wood chip area
- The transformation of the old black top at the north into a hardscape play court including basketball hoops and a sand pit for long jump
- A raised boardwalk through the rain garden
- A new bike and pedestrian entry point off of 24th Street and new bike parking at the blue stair
- An enclosed trash, recycling, and composting area
- A new home for our bobcat and gardening supplies
- Several Electric Vehicle ready parking spaces for teachers and staff
- Native plants and herbs to be used in teaching
- Raised gardening beds near the wood shop
- New parent gathering area near Nicollet Ave and improved sidewalk along the parking lot
- A new banner over the parking lot celebrating our school
Why are we prioritizing this project?
Outdoor play is an essential part of the early childhood curriculum and an important part of every school day for our grades students. Our students spend more time outside each week than in any public or private school in the area. The activity of play is central to the healthy cognitive, physical, emotional and social development of the child. Play is the gateway to discovery, creativity, and imagination, to observing cause and effect, to developing physical dexterity and emotional balance, to learning about fairness and inclusion, and collaboration and cooperation with others. Time outdoors during the school day is also designed to meet our student’s need to be grounded in the truth and beauty of the natural world. They benefit from experiencing the elements, feeling the rhythm and the wisdom of nature, and observing the cycle of the seasons.
Regular outside play creates an outbreath in the school day and allows students to return to academic learning with greater focus, concentration, and enthusiasm.
Wasn’t the play yard renovation part of the Capital Campaign?
Yes! Those of you who have been in the school for several years will recall that a redesign of our outdoor space was one of three major projects that were a part of a one million dollar capital campaign launched in the 2019-20 school year. During the silent phase of the campaign, we had raised over $400,000 in pledges prior to our Capital Campaign launch party on February 20, 2020 when we planned to begin the public phase of the campaign. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we had to let our capital fundraising efforts rest while we refocussed the school’s energy and fundraising efforts to prepare for in person learning in September 2022.
What did we do with the funds already received towards capital improvements?
The first phase of our renovation project began in the summer of 2020, when we removed a large section of the black top, added a french drain and a grassy field (pictured above), and painted the old woodshop and the west staircase.
Who’s been involved in creating the plan?
Many teachers, staff, and parents have participated in the evolution of the design of the play yard over the years. We worked with the Cuningham Group in the initial round of concept designs and then further developed our plan working with graduate students in landscape design at the University of Minnesota in the Spring of 2017 under the guidance of Anna Bierbauer and in collaboration with Mother Earth Gardens.
In 2018, we conducted a feasibility study to get feedback about several large capital projects including the play yard renovation; we met with current and alumni parents, and asked all CLWS families to participate in a schoolwide parent survey. Current parent support was strong for the play yard improvement.
Members of our Building and Grounds Committee have continued to refine the design over the past year focusing on some of the special elements highlighted in our Fund-an-Item projects and partnering with the Ecological Design group who specialize in permaculture, land planning, and education. Building and Grounds Committee parent volunteers, Ryan Kronzer, Matt Sletten, Aaron Parker and Stephanie Kelsen have been critical to the development and implementation of the planned play yard renovation.
What’s the timeline for the project?
We plan to “break ground” at a community gathering in early June, 2020. Construction will begin right away this summer once school is out! The bulk of the project will be completed before school begins in September. Some of the play structures, landscaping, and artistic elements including the Bell Tower may have to wait for a final phase in the Spring/Summer of 2023.
How can I help?
There are many ways to support this exciting project. We are currently raising money for four designated Fund-an-Item projects that were introduced at our Spring Gala on Saturday, May 7.
Click here to learn more about several additional opportunities to get involved, including a public lecture with artist, author, and activist Betsy Damon and a ground-breaking community gathering, both taking place in early June. This summer and next fall you can also lend a hand via a variety of volunteer opportunities. Bookmark our Play Yard Renovation web page to stay in the loop!