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The Future of Play: Our Early Childhood Outdoor Project is ON!


By Lauren Kochman

Music making; creative play in a hillside cabin; baking in a mud kitchen; exploring through sensory zones…these are the enhancements we are trying to create for our children in the ongoing Outdoor Project.

INFANT & TODDLER: this was the most recent addition. Transforming our south entrance sidewalk from temporary fencing to a permanent structure, we have created a safe and open ended outside area for our smallest learners. We have water play, bubbles, sensory bins, grass and other nature elements.

WINGS & NORTHFIELD PLAYGROUNDS: With a team of parent volunteers, this committee will help brainstorm and implement enhancement ideas.

• We will remove old play structures and repurpose those parts/add new for multi-use equipment and material
• Children will engage in more independent thinking and open-ended play, which fosters creativity and encourages curiosity.
• Art, Music, Sensory, Math, Science Motor Skills, and Social Skills will all be incorporated into play in ways that cannot be accomplished indoors.

These are pictures of the existing Wings space, which consists of a play structure and sandpit. There is a lot of room for improvement. The committee is currently in the process of viewing the area and brainstorming new structure locations, collecting materials and repurposing parts from the current play structure.

Our volunteer, Rosa Colon, asked some helpful questions and Laina’s answers give a basic idea of our status:

1. What kind of budget is available currently/is planned for this renovation?

In addition to two committee members who are talented architects contributing their skills, we have a world-renowned landscape architect (also a JCC grandmother) currently working on the design. She will be providing cost estimates along with a fundraising brochure.

2. Is there a blueprint available for the outdoor space with dimensions and construction details?
Yes, we are in possession of a blue print.

3. Are there department of education/health regulations that the group should be aware of?
Above mentioned architects are familiar with regulations and will be sure to proceed accordingly.

4. Is there an intended timeline for this?
While we are updating all of our outdoor spaces, right now our largest focus is Wings playground. We would like to see the space transformed over the course of this year and ready next fall.

5. Someone at the meeting suggested fundraising efforts (ability to dedicate pieces of the playground). I think this was an awesome suggestion!
So do we! We can work with the JCC’s development director on specific naming rights for small or large portions of the playground. L’dor v’dor (From generation to generation)!

6. Has the ECC engaged a qualified and licensed general contractor to assist with the planning for this?
No, we do not have a GC. I do not believe we are planning to use one for this project as it does not involve major construction.

7. Are there permits that need to be obtained/paid for? My understanding is that in West Orange everything needs a permit. This will need to be accounted for in terms of budget and timeline. A licensed and experienced GC should be able to help us figure this out and help us obtain these as needed.
Between our maintenance department and landscape architect, we will comply with all local and state codes.

The future of WINGS Playground…