Recess is a time for kids to get outdoors, take in some fresh air, and stretch their legs. Instead of shuffling around blacktop
or playing with metal and plastic equipment, the Abington Friends School in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania decided that their students should interact with nature. The Garden Station, created by Metcalfe Architecture & Design, is an open-ended centerpiece that stands adjacent to their Nature Playground and early childhood classrooms.
The Garden Station is a play space that was designed to anchor the garden experience. Built to reflect the Reggio-informed learning principles that form the base of the school's philosophy, the structure is a welcoming and child-directed spot where young children initiate their own activities.
MA&D designers began their plans for the Garden Station by meeting with young students to identify their favorite types of play environments. Taking their opinions into account, the architects established a place where the children could connect with nature while also feeling safe and secure. The surfaces are made primarily from cedar and timber harvested on site so that the kids are surrounded by organic textures.
The Garden Station is Pennsylvania’s first school-based “Nature Explore Classroom.” Shying away from contemporary playground design that creates literal representations of rocket ships or boats, Abington Friends and MA&D agreed that their work should be abstract enough to let imaginations flourish. They made sure there were places to climb, dig, and hide. Good sight lines ensure physical safety, and the overall composition incorporates both familiar and novel elements to encourage exploration. Appearing modern and inviting, the Garden Station is a part of a growing movement to reconnect children with their environments through play.