Moorestown Friends School opens playscape for Lower School kids

Its features include a rainwater garden, playpods and swings.

CHRISTINE HARKINSON/Special to The Sun: Lower School students at Moorestown Friends School play on the log and net climber and pendulum swing on a new playscape. The area officially opened to students on Nov. 2 and provides different types of learning experiences.

Moorestown Friends School unveiled a new and innovative playscape for Lower School students on Nov. 2, with many of those students in attendance.

Head of School Julia de la Torre and Lower School Director Jenel Giles provided an orientation on elements of the playscape.

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“We have all waited a very long time for this day and it has been particularly exciting to watch the playscape take shape since the start of the school year,” noted de la Torre.

Students, teachers and families were included in the design process.

“We had a design process that included getting input from faculty and staff and input from students,” Giles explained. “They actually created models and drew pictures of (the) things that they would want to have in the space.

CHRISTINE HARKINSON/Special to The Sun: Moorestown Friends Head of School Julia de la Torre (far right) and Lower School Director Jenel Giles officially open a new playscape with the Friends’ Fox mascot on Nov. 2. The playscape is a multi-age and immersive environment that includes swings, slides and two play pods.

“A design firm coded all those different models, writings and drawings from students and broke things down into elements …” she added, “and so (they) took that and brought that into the design.”

The playscape’s elements include a log and net climber, pendulum and other swings and slides.

“(The pendulum swing) is a group swing and invites collaborative play,” said Giles. “Students work together to get the swing going side to side, challenging themselves with speed and height.”

CHRISTINE HARKINSON/The Sun: The onion pod is one of two custom-designed play pods that provides a treehouse and cave-like experience. Both pods are designed to give students private places to be with friends (above).

There are also two custom-designed play pods, onion and clamshell, where students can play, hide and be alone or in small groups.

“These pods (kind of) give us the best of both worlds,” noted de la Torre. “Kids can feel like they have these private, special places, but teachers can also see them and supervise.”

“Children (also) asked for treehouses and underground spots where they could hide, create and talk with friends or play,” said Garrett McVaugh, preschool teacher at Moorestown Friends and member of the playscape design committee.

The playscape has a rain garden that provides students with a close look at different plants and the insects and butterflies they attract.

“It’s meant to not just capture rainwater after a storm, but (also) feed over 650 native plantings that are in that space,” de la Torre said. 

The playscape also has an open green field older students can use during recess.

CHRISTINE HARKINSON/The Sun: The parkour structure (above center) is a part of a playscape at Moorestown Friends School and was unveiled to students on Nov. 2. It allows them to climb vertically and horizontally.

“The field is something that was particularly important to our older students, who wanted space to play team games, tag and other running activities,” said Rachel Mainwaring, third grade teacher and a member of the design committee.

The playscape was originally supposed to be finished the first week of September, but work went on until November. Students were able to see the process unfold.

“When you’re actually experiencing the playscape, it just feels so much more immersive and exciting,” noted de la Torre. “We want to get parents and guardians together with their kids on the space and hopefully inspire parents to play as well and connect with their inner child.”

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