Temple Beth El of Great Neck has three distinct spaces intended to enhance the children’s interaction with nature.
- The first is the large playground which holds a lot of promise for things to come. There’s also an adjacent toddler playground.
- The second is a series of planting boxes that border the walkways and paths between the playground and the school entrance.
- And the third is actually inside the school where several items from the outdoors have become part of the curriculum and environment for all to enjoy.
On this rainy morning I was greeted by Aviva Peress, educator, who was outside with her students in the playground area near the parking lot. The rain had recently let up. It was great to see Aviva again after meeting her at last year’s Connecting Kids to Nature conference at Pearlstone. For info on this year’s conference click here. That’s when I found out she had a green thumb and was already beginning to help her school transform a few underutilized spaces for growing fruits and vegetables. Aviva was excited to show me around but first I needed to go inside and let Early Childhood Director Vicki Perler I had arrived.
Holding the badge of being a JECEI School (Jewish Early Childhood Education Initiative), Vicki proudly guides me through the hallways and classrooms reflecting on the year. The artifacts and documentation boards around the school spark vivid memories of the activities and units that took place through several seasons.
CREATIVE WAYS NATURAL ELEMENTS ARE USED INDOORS:
Aviva’s green thumb and educational influence impacts the design of the gardens, the vegetables and fruits selected, how they are cared for, and they way they are experienced by the children indoors and out.
THE PLANTING BOXES AND GARDENS THAT LAY BETWEEN THE PLAYGROUND AND THE SCHOOL:
The playground area is large with lots of open space. The ground is covered with aged chips and soft dirt. Two or three trees that sit inside the fenced in area are very tall and have branches that begin way up the trunks. There are a few tree trunk pieces scattered about but it’s definitely a space that holds a lot of promise for incorporating more playful and natural elements that will support a more exploratory approach.
A PLAYGROUND WITH ROOM TO GROW:
PLANS IN THE MAKING: A cozy area with vines or other canape type of feature, butterfly bushes and blueberry bushes along the rear fence.