A new playground at Eastern Mennonite Elementary School incorporates natural and reclaimed materials to create space for outdoor imaginary play and learning.
Kendal Bauman and a host of volunteers — alumni, parents and high school students — developed the space over the summer to welcome the 95 EMS students at the beginning of the school year. They developed the playground adjacent to the school’s elementary building — currently under renovation — between old and damaged tennis courts and the school’s baseball field.
“A lot of sweat equity went into this project,” reports Bauman, who taught middle and high school at EMS since 1992 and was boys varsity soccer coach for 20 years. “I’ve had a great time researching ideas to encourage gross motor skill development on a budget, using materials we had on hand and creating a welcoming environment for all ages and levels of activities,” he says.
“I so appreciate Kendal’s hard work, enthusiasm and vision for this space,” says Maria Archer, K-8 principal.
EMES spent its first 11 years at sites away from the main school campus. “We were sad to leave our wooded play and exploring spaces when we moved from our 11 North site,” says Archer. “But Kendal has taken a ‘blank slate’ and created something that is every bit as welcoming for our students. I know we have a great year ahead with PE and all our outdoor learning.”
Middle School Science Student Help
Next up: Seventh grade life science and eighth grade physical science students are helping with the next step: incorporating the enormous tractor tires that Bauman and Lee Good, earth science teacher, salvaged for the space. Calculating the mass and considering how much dirt needs to be moved to bury them vertically for climbing are among the questions they will research.