CELEBRATING CHILDHOOD: NEW OUTDOOR CAMPUS CENTER OPENS AT RIDGEFIELD ACADEMY
The project was made possible by extraordinary generosity and completely funded by a small group of major donors. Without hesitation, lead donors Vince and Linda McMahon supported the creation of a new space for play, exploration, learning, and the development of important skills.
“The Outdoor Campus Center and Playspace will allow the students not only to learn, but more importantly, will let them practice some of the most important aspects of growing up. We know that besides being active, the social and emotional aspect of a student’s education is more important now than ever,” Mrs. McMahon commented. “The Outdoor Campus Center and Playspace will engage all students in teamwork, problem solving and social dynamics that will benefit them both inside the classroom and outside in the greater world.”
The OCC now sits directly at the center of campus, a visible representation of the school’s mission to value and celebrate the childhood years. Head of School Tom Main said the project speaks to RA’s ongoing commitment to enhancing student-focused spaces.
“Completing the new Outdoor Campus Center on the heels of renovating the turf field provides high quality outdoor space for kindergarten through Grade 8 students,” Main said. “Additionally, the OCC cements Ridgefield Academy and Landmark Preschool’s commitment to creating an environment of joyful learning for our kids.”
Constructing a new playground for Kindergarten - Grade 3 students has been in the mind of Head of Lower School Alison O’Callaghan since her first day at Ridgefield Academy. The OCC replaces an aging playground at the back of the school, which was limited by its shape and drainage issues. O’Callaghan thought it was important that a new playground be in an entirely new space, one that is more accessible and viewable on campus. Many considerations went into the selection of space, playground apparatuses, and the integration of the OCC into the existing topography of the land. O’Callaghan and trustee Alex Bellina, an architect at Doyle Coffin Architecture, LLC, worked closely with landscape architects from Seventy Acres Landscape and Design.
“We were deliberate about the types of play spaces we created. We wanted it to be physically challenging, as well as creatively challenging, for students to figure out how to use the space,” O’Callaghan said. “For instance, the logs to climb on and bumps in the grass are open for interpretation. The net climber and crab trap are challenges so the students can climb and get up high, the zipline is enticing but different, and the two slides built into the hill to connect the two levels tie it all together.”
Construction began on the project in June and was completed before school opened for the new year in September. The joy experienced on campus since the opening is evident; students cannot help but rush excitedly from their classrooms to the OCC each day.
Favoring the challenge of climbing and experiencing elevation, Grade 3 student Ella L.’s favorite part of the playground is a net structure known as the crab trap. “It’s a good way to exercise your muscles,” she said. Although it initially took getting used to, kindergarten students now overwhelmingly favor the zipline.
For kindergarten student Jamie G., being able to sit down and ride on the zipline is her favorite part. “You don’t have to hang from it,” she said. “It can do it all by itself!”
Middle and Upper School students also have the opportunity to use the space in creative ways. Upper School math teacher Adele Dominicus recently took her Grade 8 students outside to identify and photograph geometry concepts on the playscape, describing the OCC as a “geometric wonder”.
In addition to being a place for student fun and learning, the OCC provides a central outdoor location where members of the Ridgefield Academy and Landmark Preschool community can connect. The outdoor meeting space, classroom, and walking path have been widely used by the Ridgefield Academy Parents’ Association as well as faculty and staff over the first several weeks of school.