July 31, 2019 – Before the children arrive, when you look out over The West Hill School’s Sallie S. Teaf Playscape, it is easy to see the tranquil beauty and feel the peaceful calm of this exquisite 2.5 acres nestled in the Rosemont suburb of Philadelphia.
This beautiful landscape, with its grassy hill, boulder circles and bird blind, welcomes nature in all its forms with birds, butterflies, squirrels, and deer scampering across this intentionally crafted space. With the soft shade of a droopy Cherry Blossom tree and large wooden tree benches scattered throughout, it is a place that invites serenity. Fast forward a few hours to when our three classrooms of children enter the Playscape and watch the magic happen! The children are the centerpieces of this picture as they create, explore, take risks, laugh and engage in exciting play and hands-on learning.
The Playscape is comprised of 16 intentionally designed areas/ rooms dedicated to connecting nursery school age children to their interests, to each other and to meaningful experiences with nature as part of daily learning. Some of the Playscape areas/rooms include Art, Garden, Building, Sand, Swings, Wheeled Toys, Climb/Balance as well as:
Gathering: Envision a canopy and tall oak trees providing plenty of shade for cozy group meetings, where children skip over West Hill family dedication bricks to sit upon perfectly sized boulders with their friends.
Messy Materials: Here the children have collected sticks of various sizes – from enormous to tiny. Collectively or solo, they build amazing forts, bird’s nests, yurts, towns and obstacle courses. The greatest part about Messy Materials – it’s all about loose parts and there’s no clean up. Just leave the materials out for tomorrow’s exploration!
The West Hill Happy Hill: This grassy knoll is the perfect spot for watching the clouds float by or energetically rolling down the hill. Sled riding in the winter months, anyone? Yes, please!
Bird Watching: Behind an eight-foot wall with lots of child-level viewing holes, many bird feeders entice the local wildlife to flourish in this tucked-away corner of the Playscape.
Music/Theatre: With its installed instruments and wooden stage, this area is a budding thespian’s dream. The Think Green design team even included a natural berm for the audience to sit on while the children perform!
Water, Dirt Digging and Mud Kitchen: These areas/rooms were designed to flow into each other and they are the most action-packed areas/rooms every day. The children love to mix the dirt and the water to make concoctions – adding in leaves, grass, flower petals and other seasonal natural materials. The symbolic representation that explodes in this area draws the delight of the children and the teachers!
The Playscape allows the children to enjoy being children while inspiring their wonder, adventure, experimentation and safe risk-taking. The children have the freedom to choose among the areas/rooms to satisfy their individual interests, developmental levels and skillsets. The possibilities are endless!