IF YOU BUILD IT, YOU CAN PLAY!

Greenfield Hebrew Academy

Greenfield’s new Imagination Playground – a gift from the school’s PTSA – encourages teamwork and group play.

When the younger students at the Katherine and Jacob Greenfield Hebrew Academy attended the school Open House on Aug. 12, they were surprised to see something new in a lovely but little-used courtyard: An Imagination Playground had sprung up overnight!

This groundbreaking playspace concept – a gift from GHA’s own Parent-Teacher-Student Association – features giant blue foam shapes designed to intrigue and interest children, sparking their imaginations and encouraging them to design their own course of play.

Young students seemed to gravitate to it immediately, working together and separately to create amazing structures. There were Seussian castles with flowers sprouting from the towers, Rube-Goldberg-style ball runs and courses and otherworldly gardens of triangles and parallelograms, all in a vivid shade of bright blue.

GHA is the first school in Atlanta to host this revolutionary new mobile and interactive play environment. The Imagination Playground design, which was created by award-winning New York-based architect David Rockwell, is the response to what a real parent felt was lacking in the typical playground.

Rockwell was inspired to create the Imagination Playground by watching his own children play, and he used his design experience to enhance dynamism and learning outcomes in free play.

David Krishock, President of Bright Days and Imagination Playground, personally introduced the Imagination Playground to GHA staff. He explained that the shapes are safe, easy to manipulate and designed to intrigue.

“It’s really something to see two little ones working together to move one of the bigger blocks into position,” he said. “They won’t get hurt, and they’re working together on an idea. Maybe not the same idea…but Imagination Playground shapes allow them to connect their dreams.”

Greenfield parent Cheryl Haas looked on as a group of kids worked on an amoeba-shaped track for several rolling balls, pushed by a toddler.

“I think the older kids are going to want to play with this, too,” she remarked.

Yael Katz, who teaches in the kindergarten, said, “I certainly enjoyed playing with them!”

Principal Leah Summers was very enthusiastic about the educational opportunities disguised as simple play.

“They encourage collaboration and problem-solving,” she said. “They allow children to develop leadership skills, [and] they introduce the concept of doing things in the real world. What a fantastic gift from the PTSA!”

Editor’s note: Leah Levy is a paraprofessional at GHA and the author of “The Waiting Wall,” a Sydney Taylor Notable Book for 2010.

By Leah Levy
AJT Contributor