Our move to the Center of the Universe is far from complete, but we started class there yesterday nevertheless. As it turned out, the move was rather precipitous. We shifted the bulk of our stuff one weekend, ran a week of school at the old place, then moved the rest the following weekend. We then had nine days to get things ready for our summer program.
Before I go any further, I've been authorized to mention that we still have a few spots remaining in said summer program during the month of August. If your child is between the ages of 2 and 6, and you have previous experience in a cooperative preschool, and you're in the Seattle area, you might want to jump at the chance to experience our little community here in Fremont. Here is the link for more information. And here's the email.
We've been working our proverbial posteriors off this past week, some of us putting in 8-12 hour days, which is saying something when there are young children to care for. Although we've now more or less set up the indoor spaces, and we still have a long way to go on our storage spaces, the real push was to get the new outdoor classroom ready because that's where we plan to spend most of our time during these next three months.
Fortunately, our community has some experience now in building an outdoor space, having recently done so on a smaller scale, and we have a pretty good of what we want. That said, we've also learned that whatever we do at the start, we are only constructing a skeleton; bones which the children and their families will bring to life through their play. What we did in the old space 15 months ago had only just begun to take on an organic shape when we moved, so we're fully aware that what I'm showing you in these pictures is a starting point and may only bear a passing resemblance to what this space is to become.
Here's where we started 9 days ago:
We decided fairly quickly that we needed to remove the slide and climber, both of which had seen better days. We kept the swing set. We knew we wanted a large sandpit, a place to make art, and a work bench. We have a nice large area for a garden, which is located on the other side of the building, but decided we didn't have time to get that going just now, so elected to construct a few raised beds instead.
We also remain committed to the concept of "loose parts," a notion that has grown from what we once called Little World, but has now come to encompass the entirety of our outdoor world. (I still haven't been able to get my mind around why we don't apply more of the loose part principles to our indoor space, but that's a rumination for another post.) I believe that we're going to want a "play house" of some sort, but that's something I hope will evolve over the course of our summer playing together.
Here's what we started with yesterday:
What kind of place is this? It's like a place we've seen before, but not as well. There are familiar things like our unicycle merry-go-round and our boat. But then there's this huge metal windmill with a dragon emerging from behind it.
Sadly, I neglected to take a proper photo of the dragon part. If you look closely (or double
click on the pic) you can see the top of its head coming out over the sand pit, its wing
from the other side of the roof and the tail curving out from the right side.
I promise a better photo soon. I imagine this will form one of the walls of our
Here's the familiar cast iron water pump.
But it's in now in a giant, two-level sand pit enclosed by massive, fresh cedar tree rounds.
See that tarp up on the fence? That's still there because the other end of it
is buried several feet under the sand. We've spread a lot of it, but essentially
we're playing on a hill of sand that we expect will eventually move downhill
and fill in around the boat.
Our workbench and worm bin have shown up in the new place relatively unchanged.
If you look carefully at the top of the new fence Fremont Baptist Church built for us, you'll
see our blue glass flame. I'm hoping to persuade Fremont artist Rodman Miller
I was surprised and pleased when I discovered that we had filled a couple
buckets with worms from our old worm bed to get us started in our new place.
Although our garden is puzzled together from parts of our old familiar place, it's now set right in the center of the outdoor classroom, instead of off around a corner where it once was.
The amazingly wonderful raised bed garden was built almost single-handedly by Jody's mom
Jennifer. She reclaimed wood from our old raised beds and transplanted an array of plants
from the old place.
I've seen parts of this before, but here, outdoors, they're out of context. What's going on here?
Every part of this is moveable by a determined preschooler or two. I imagine
that ultimately these parts will get distributed throughout the space, but
for now they're a kind of risk assessment training ground where we can
teach children to test things for stability and look before they leap.
Yesterday they were a place to perch while investigating little things.
The swings are an entirely new thing, yet we already understand them, so are they new or old?
It shouldn't surprise anyone that our good old boat was the center of much of our play yesterday, our first day in our new place.
Interestingly, the workbench was essentially left for our youngest classmates to explore.
Look at the teaching going on right here. These children are barely 2, yet look at the focus
of both the children and the adults working with them.
And our art table yesterday served as a sort of respite for those of us who needed a little quite time.
We have another of these tables we've yet to assemble. I'm not sold on the umbrella, but it
comes with it, so we'll try it for a time. We might find a better use for them elsewhere.
All in all, not bad, I think, for 9 days work and children to raise.
The stairway to nowhere, now goes somewhere.
Now it's time for the children to make it their own.