Last Saturday, Jeff Squire and Rachel Loeffler, Landscape Architects at Berkshire Design, teamed up with Cory Frehsee of Stevens and Associates, Chris Bell of Bellco Construction, and Academy School Parents and Volunteers led by Andy Paciulli, Principal of the Academy School. Their mission: to complete Phase 1 of the Academy School’s new nature playground.
The project began this summer with a vision by Andy Paciulli of adding a nature playground to the Academy School grounds. The school already integrated forest and stream play in with its curriculum and a more formalized nature play experience was desired for the site. Andy and Cory Frehsee, a parent and Civil Engineer, brought in Berkshire Design to assist with the design and planning for the project. Berkshire Design met with teachers and a few parents to listen to their vision for the project. Stevens Associates meanwhile surveyed the area set aside for nature play, an area with existing trees, terrain, and a stone wall. Compiling all this information, Berkshire Design prepared 3 design concepts for feedback from the school After several review discussions, the project was broken out into phases and donations and volunteers were solicited from the community.
Bellco Construction prepped the site prior to school starting, and came back for the Community Build Day to help with the “heavy lifting.” The project reuses natural materials found on site, and works with the existing grades as an asset, shaping them into a sledding hill, mud kitchen, shade sail, play fort, and climbing logs. A bog bridge was built from the mud kitchen to a water play area. The water play area, willow nest, and willow wall maze are slated for Phase 2.
The construction happened so quickly, one student came up to volunteers asking within an hour of the balance logs’ completion if they could play on the new structure. “Not yet,” team members iterated. “We have to put down protective play surfacing first.” The excitement was palatable.
Upon opening, kindergarten students ran up the hill to the play fort and pretended that they were out at sea–deep sea fishing. The kids are already making this playground their own.
See a shout out to the project in the Brattleboro Reformer: