Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Guest post - The Great shed roll to create a tea house.

One of the first blogs I came across was Takoma Park Cooperative Nursery School's. I have enjoyed following this wonderful blog & watching their outdoor play space develop & change. I am so delighted to have Lesley Romanoff Director at TPCNS write a guest post this week for my blog. This is a post about how the 'can do' spirit of cooperative schooling shines through. It is thanks to Lesley that I introduced parent volunteers to my classroom this year. So sit back & read this post & enjoy the video of the shed roll.
The finished tea room
Our playground’s story is a chapter book. The first chapter doesn’t even take place at our current location. That chapter takes place at our much-loved location and is filled with more examples of the forward-thinking nature of our parent community. They renovated the playground there; specifically researching and purchasing only play structures that could be moved. Before long, that is exactly what happened. We found out exactly how much a flat bed could hold and how deep to dig to plant a slide, a seesaw, etc.
When we landed at our new site, our primary focus was the interior spaces. The bungalow had not been used as a residence for years. In the late 80s and 90s, it was a daycare. We gutted it for its current iteration for our parent cooperative school. And when I say “we,” I mean, parents and staff. We only hired a handful of professionals and the rest was dogged determination and elbow grease, or rather spackle.

We brought the playground up to speed and settled in knowing that the playground would be the next thing we would tackle. A student’s grandfather worked with me to develop a plan for the playground. It involved destinations and pathways as well as height and texture in the form of key plantings. Then Phase 1, or the next chapter was written. The sandpit, the campsite, the tubes (purchased for the old school, but not installed), and the seesaw were installed or rearranged. The dirt was moved from the new sandpit to create a berm and these are two of the best features of the playground.
The dust cleared and settled, but there was one destination/component from the playground plan left to be created and it was a playhouse. We couldn’t really figure out where it would go once everything was “planted.” So this chapter begins with two moments in time.

The first moment, a parent asked me why our storage shed wasn’t painted like the school (we are keen on the bright and saturated colors). I didn’t have a real answer. The only thing I could come up with is that I just didn’t acknowledge the shed’s existence. In fact when I went through the hundreds of photos we have of our outdoor space I couldn’t find a reasonable photo of the shed or a view that included the place that would become the Children’s Teahouse and Rock Garden.

The second moment came soon after on a brutal hot day during our summer art camp. I was sitting on one of the sandpit’s boulders (you get to do this with mixed-age classes) while looking at the Montessori Services catalog. I looked up at the shed (grump) and then wondered about a rock garden and how to heave ho the shed to create a playhouse, without actually losing the shed.
And there you have it. Well, except for the HOURS of labor moving the shed to the back of the yard (here is the video and HOURS of fundraising and HOURS of digging, building, and moving rocks! Those hours will be traded, joyfully, for HOURS of play, imagination, and collaboration. As always, this beauty was pulled off with the help of the parents and the children. The parents are modeling community involvement and the children adopt it in a very real way. 

Stay tuned as we create our next playground feature takes shape…a dry creek bed!
The children breaking the ground for the dry creek bed project


  1. Thank you for letting me share. And to think that this sharing was built upon a discussion about wood chips and mud. That equals a solid foundation!

    1. Oh yes, that seems like a long time ago - feel like we have been 'colleagues' for years! Thanks so much for being my first guest poster! Kierna

  2. Replies
    1. Isn't it - I just love the video clip. Kierna


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