Throughout the summer of 2021, and just in time for the 2021-22 school year, the Corlears backyard play space saw a major renovation
The transformation came after months of intentional planning and staff-wide collaboration to create an outdoor environment that supports learning through play. Head of School David Egolf worked with teachers and staff to intentionally design the yard to be an extension of the classrooms, and once the plans were set, our maintenance crew went to work bringing that vision to life.
Inspiration came from “natural playgrounds,” and thoughtful considerations were given to every aspect, from the materials used on the ground to the placement of the new basketball hoop.
The Updated Space
At Corlears, we pride ourselves on providing a play-based curriculum to young students that allows them to have fun, while growing their sense of independence and creativity. The updated yard offers an inviting space for students in our Roots toddlers through Kindergarten programs to do just that.
Through different spaces built into the yard, students are able to engage in playful tactile experiences, explore their curiosities in the natural world, and develop motor skills.
These spaces include a custom-designed slide, a mud kitchen, music wall, imagination playground blocks, and a climbing structure. Children are given the space and materials to safely run, jump, dig, ride, balance, garden — and so much more!
“The climber-slide combo has been great for our kids' gross-motor development, core strength, and for building self-confidence to do hard things,” says 4s associate teacher Jameel Johnson. “The yard redesign has been great for our PreK class!”
Creativity is on display in the mud kitchen where students enjoy making dirt soup for their teachers. Elsewhere in the yard they engage in dramatic, narrative-driven play, ride trikes, and play with balls. With so many opportunities available, play and learning have become much more multifaceted than previously possible.
Roots Gentle Separation teacher Hillary Goldman quickly saw how impactful the play-space could be for the class’s toddlers.
“On Monday, our group fully separated and went to the yard on their own for the first time. [One of our students] had a tricky time with the transition from work time to snack but once we made it outside she smiled and said, '’my favorite part,’” Hillary shared. “Thank goodness for outdoor space! It is a game changer for stabilizing and regulating mood during a challenging transitional time.”
While our classes have enjoyed adventures in the yard during the school day, we also opened the yard to the wider community through our new community-building initiative, Learn. Play. Grow. Center. For 13 Saturdays during the 2021-22 school year, children and parents were able to gather in the backyard space, as well as spaces throughout the school, to engage in enriching activities led by partner organizations at no cost to attendees.
The transformation of the yard has created countless opportunities for imagination, growth, and community at Corlears.