In September 2008, Berkwood Hedge completed phase one of a three-phase outside yard renovation project. When school started, students returned to a completely renovated side yard!
There is a dedicated sand area with waffle blocks and big tubs of shovels, buckets, trucks, animals and "other" sand toys available for play, as well as four short hose connections, which the children can control themselves for water play. The renovation, accomplished in about six weeks during Summer 2008, was the culmination of three years of planning by our Blue Sky Committee.
The committee worked with architects Karen Burks and Marc Toma (parents of Berkwood Hedge graduates) of Burks Toma Architects,
who had previously helped the school with both the 1989 remodel creating the Community Room, 4th/5th classrooms, art room, library, and office and the 2004 renovation of the kindergarten, first, second, and third grade classrooms. Ross Playground Equipment of Santa Rosa provided specific guidance for re-working the climbing structure.
For three years, the committee met regularly to brainstorm, dream, measure, discuss, and finally make decisions that were particularly challenging given the space restrictions. One important part of the process was incorporating students' input, gathered in classrooms over the course of a few weeks. Students wanted the swings and they wanted sand! Berkwood Hedge teachers and staff strongly believe in the value of sand play for all ages of children; the newly designed space is working marvelously. As one might imagine, the buckets containing sand toys are as popular as the toys themselves, serving as ships, train cars or towers.
The new play yard also includes a climbing wall, and four of the fence panels near the sand area can be used as blackboards. The climbing structure, with both reused and new components, is longer than either of the old ones, so more children can use it simultaneously.
An unexpected bonus - everyone loves the smell of the wood chips which cover the special dense foam surface under the swings and climbing structure. The entire project is surrounded by a beautiful, new eight-foot wooden fence.
A small capital campaign raised more than half of the cost of the renovation. Thanks to everyone who helped make it possible! The proof in the success of the project can be seen on the happy children's faces as they climb, swing, slide, build, dig, fill buckets with water, and practice on the monkey bars.