The expanded early childhood playground, a gift from parents Geoffrey and Courtney Brock, will evolve and change with students’ needs.
Do you remember the fun you had as a kid during recess? While we all enjoyed the much-needed break from sitting at our desks way back when, today it’s widely known that recess also improves classroom learning and helps children develop valuable communication skills such as negotiation, cooperation, sharing and problem solving as well as perseverance and self-control.
“Playgrounds are utilized for unstructured recess time, which is vital to our students’ physical and cognitive development,” Lower School counselor Lindsey Schreier explained. “Children learn about themselves and the world around them through their play. Giving them the opportunity to freely explore those boundaries and test their imagination is key to their emotional, cognitive, physical and social development.”
It’s this understanding today that makes the expansion and enrichment of the Lower School’s early childhood playground that much more meaningful for our current students and teachers — and for future generations of Ravens as well.
This rendering of Izzy’s Playground shows the new features and planned expansion into the natural area by the Dining Hall.
“A beautiful natural space”
Izzy’s Playground, as the reimagined space is called, is an outright and endowed gift from Ravenscroft parents Courtney and Geoffrey Brock in memory of their daughter. The project will unfold in several phases over the next year and, as part of the Brocks’ vision, will become a “living play space” in which ongoing yearly enhancements will support and encourage students’ natural curiosity and love of discovery.
“We started the endowment for Izzy’s Playground so that anyone can contribute, and we hope our vision inspires others to support the project,” Geoffrey Brock said. “The goal for the endowment is that, as it grows, the school will have the funds to make any adjustments that suit the students’ needs year after year.”
In the first phase, the existing playground is being extended to include the wooded area next to the Dining Hall. As the area is expanded, new natural boundaries will be established using plants and purposeful changes in elevation.
“It’s a beautiful natural space that we are excited to open up to the kids and their imagination,” Courtney Brock said. “This year our focus is to define the space, lay down the basic groundwork and get as many plantings in as possible.”
Izzy’s Playground will continue to unfold for years to come. “We don’t want to just build a playground and leave it at that,” Geoffrey said. “Every year, we’re going to sit down with teachers and school leadership to discuss what’s working well for the kids and what isn’t and how they play together in the space. Teachers see the kids use the space every day, and we want to use their knowledge to help us enhance Izzy’s Playground every year.”
Geoffrey and Courtney Brock with their children, Henry, Izzy and Samantha
More than a playground
“Any upgrades made will greatly benefit our students and teachers,” Schreier said. “For example, introducing more physical obstacles can promote growth in gross motor skills and challenge students to be more growth-minded. Any small additions like sensory tables, spinning gears, pouring stations with water containers and so forth would be very beneficial to their handwriting and other classroom-related fine motor skills.”
For the Brocks, it’s more than just building a playground. Izzy’s Playground will be a place every Lower School student will have the chance to explore and make memories in.
“When all three of our children were in Lower School at Ravenscroft, Izzy would run to the fence calling her siblings’ names. It became a tradition for our children and their friends to stop to say hi to Izzy. The location of the Lower School playground fostered this interaction and allowed the kids to feel like they were at school together,” Courtney said. “Anecdotes like these are what make the Lower School playground so special to our family and demonstrate its potential to foster meaningful interactions for all students.”
Head of Lower School Nicole Girvan enthusiastically agreed. “We are so grateful to Courtney and Geoffrey for this gift, which will give our PreK through second-grade students a fun and age-appropriate outdoor space in which to explore, imagine, build friendships and reset during their day,” she said.
At top, aerial photography captures the scale of Phase I of the playground expansion. Below, colorful tables and benches — built by the Facilities Department as part of the project — invite students to enjoy a solitary or social moment of rest, with art on the construction fencing behind them created and installed by the Brocks.