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Embracing the Outdoors

Exterior photo of Firestone Hall at dusk

ECP and Primary Playscapes

Through the generosity of countless donors, our new Early Childhood Program and Primary School playscapes were completed during the summer of 2020. These incredible new spaces foster imagination, give students the opportunity to connect with the natural world, develop important social and cognitive skills, and allow the children to simply have fun.

The playscapes were designed to make use of existing topography and natural materials to create an open-ended outdoor play area for children to make discoveries and interact with their environment. Through the use of tree stumps, logs and rocks, these innovative play areas offer a wide range of opportunities to stimulate creativity, encourage healthy risk-tasking and spur development in our youngest learners.  

Traditional playgrounds prescribe a certain activity to a specific space—you go down a slide, you go up the stairs, you climb up the climbing wall and so on. In such traditional structures, students are given an idea of what to do and where to do it by the adults who designed the space. In contrast, our natural playscapes allow students the ability to use their creativity and imaginations to create their own activities in a way that’s authentic to them.

Amanda Irwin, ECP and Primary School Director

The reimagining of the playscapes was spearheaded by lead architect Michelle Mathis of Learning Landscapes and executed locally by the Ohio-based architect Dan McClarren of Impullitti Landscaping and A. Crano Excavating of Akron. We are grateful to the Davey Expert Tree Company for donating material and labor to complete the spaces for our students. 

By providing an environment that is student-led and full of opportunities for exploration, children are naturally led to guess, test, rework and explore. 

It’s another example of how our beautiful setting in the national park embodies the values of our community and gives students a safe place to learn inside and out.

An arial view of the Learning Farm.

Learning Farm

Ongoing capital improvements have continued at the farm as a result of a generous donor who cares deeply about Old Trail, the farm and our unique place in the national park.

New locust split rail fences were installed during the fall and the greenhouses underwent a significant refurbishment with the installation of new film, the replacement of rotted wood and the repair of all doors during the winter break.

In addition to looking so much more appealing than the electric wire they replaced, the new fence posts are unique in that they measure 12 feet in length—4 feet underground and 8 above. The fencing includes more than 2 feet of woven wire beneath the surface to prevent groundhogs and other unwanted guests from getting into the garden. The posts themselves, which are composed of the hard, strong and heavy wood of the black locust tree, are built to stand the test of time and may very well last until Old Trail’s next century mark!