Contacts
 



Keyword Site Search








A Place for Inspiration, Reflection and Exploration
Israeli Discovery Playground at Tarbut V'Torah Community Day School,
Irvine, Calif.


by Kari Kikuta, ASLA, LPA, Inc.







The birth of the Israeli Discovery Playground at Tarbut V'Torah Community Day School in Irvine, Calif. transformed an outdated, playground with excessive hardscape into diverse spaces for learning and play. The new K-5 Outdoor Classroom and playground area is an exploratory learning garden, art studio, amphitheater, and nature park, featuring new playground equipment, a blacktop play area, a tricycle maze, and a dry riverbed with a farm water pump. By redefining the concept of "outdoor classrooms" and pushing the boundaries of what exterior space can provide for students, the campus gained 7,000 sq. ft. of programmed teaching space.


When designing 21st century educational environments, the focus is often on opportunities within the classroom. For the students at Tarbut V'Torah Community Day School, however, the emphasis on flexible learning has shifted from indoors to outside in their re-imagined playground.

Originally constructed in 1997 in Irvine, California, the K-12 campus recently completed the transformation of their lower campus play zone. The goal: to complement their educational program of relating to and sharing Israeli history through play. The birth of the Israeli Discovery Playground transformed what was once an outdated, cookie-cutter playground with excessive hardscape into a series of diverse spaces designed to be learning and play spaces. By redefining the concept of an "outdoor classroom" and pushing the boundaries of what exterior space can provide for students, the campus has gained an additional 7,000 square feet of programmed teaching space.

 




Exterior reading pods offer seclusion and shade for the students within hut-like structures.



The Art Room
The art room, one of the new outdoor spaces dedicated to facilitating and fostering creativity, is equipped with an overhead shade trellis and 18-foot-long table with an integrated sink, easily accommodating outdoor instruction of all learning styles. The kids are also given the opportunity to express their thoughts and imagination on outdoor chalkboards in two open areas. Each chalkboard is surrounded by planted green screen, framing the student work with a border of greenery.

Tucked into the landscape adjacent to the art room are child-size exterior reading pods offering seclusion and shade for the students within hut-like structures. Each is easily accessible and visible from the classrooms, enabling teachers to send students outdoors for small group learning. During the Feast of Booths holiday the reading pods are converted into sukkōt when the children weave them with palm fronds, allowing for both traditional instruction and religious celebration to occur in one space.

 




The art room easily accommodates outdoor instruction of all learning styles with an 18-foot-long table and outdoor chalkboards.



Editor's note: Sukkōt (Hebrew, plural of sukkah) is a wall structure covered with plant material, e.g., palm leaves. Sukkōt were dwellings in which, according to the Torah, the Israelites dwelt during their 40 years of travel in the desert after their Exodus from slavery in Egypt.

The sandbox allows for traditional hands-on play with the added learning element of a weighing scale that demonstrates measurement and balance, allowing children to experience principles of mathematics and physics by following their curiosity about the world around them. All of these features introduce the students to the foundations of teamwork and collaboration.




The concrete risers of the 150-seat amphitheater are used during recess for climbing adventures and for just hanging out.



From the intimate scale of the pods to the capacity of a 150-seat amphitheater, the spaces that form the Israeli Discovery Playground vary in size, have both active and passive qualities and, most importantly, are interactive.

In addition to formal campus activities like multi-class instruction and weekly lower campus Tefillah (prayer), the concrete risers of the amphitheater are used during recess for climbing adventures and just hanging out, while the synthetic turf stage provides the perfect site for building structures out of giant foam blocks.

 




The interactive creek allows children to hand pump water for play activities. The louvered lighting bollards are from Hydrel.



Wrapping the amphitheater is an interactive creek, running the length of the accessible walkway down to the stage and weaving through the landscape. Mostly a dry cobble bed, the creek has the ability to be hand-pumped with water by the students, and made into a pond for water play. A tricycle path set within a series of figure eights interlopes, giving riders the freedom to choose the length of their journey. The path leads students to a child-sized storefront inspired by the bazaars of Tel Aviv, where kids can participate in the bartering and trade experience.

Set within the landscape is an outdoor classroom with a writable wall surface, boulders for seating and a large sycamore tree for shade. The chalkboard, set low for accessibility to the young students, is a teaching tool and a play surface. The boulders are arranged to expose the flat surface, which is perfect for sitting and hoping from stone to stone.

 






A concrete tricycle path leads students to a child-sized storefront, inspired by the bazaars of Tel Aviv. The child-sized storefront allows kids to participate and learn about bartering and trade.



Between classroom clusters, outdoor growing grounds in raised planters have replaced the former dining patios. The gardens were purposefully located so that classrooms open up directly to them and students coming from other areas of the lower campus pass through on their way to the playground.

Custom worktables and benches--sized specifically for lower grade students--accompany the gardens and allow for instructional space. The planter boxes, varying in height, sit in decomposed granite, providing a pervious surface to capture any runoff from the students tending to their plants. From selecting, planting, maintaining and harvesting their fruits and vegetables, the students are exposed to food production and plant care, forming connections to the natural world and resources they use. In addition to these specialized spaces, all new play equipment and components were selected to promote health and exploration. From rope-climbing obstacle courses, spinning discs and lookout tower, to stepping stone stools, ball toss hoop and the ever-important slide, each element gives the students an opportunity to exercise critical thinking, balance and agility, independence and exploration within a safe environment.

 




The campus has 200 boulders ranging 1-5 foot in diameter, providing lots of seating for the outdoor classroom activities. For the adults, there are Adirondack chairs from PolyWood. The large sycamore tree offers shade. Creeping fig (Ficus pumila) is growing on the metal trellis (Greenscreen).



Traditional playground features such as a basketball half-court, four-square courts and ball walls were also included, providing students plenty of options to stay active and enjoy the outdoors. In keeping with the rest of the playground, the play structures are set over a synthetic turf surface, blurring the boundary between nature and play.

When selecting a planting palette, schools are often looking for low maintenance solutions with minimal variation. For the Israeli Discovery Playground plant material was selected with the goal of providing color, texture and visual interest for students, while paying homage to the native Israeli environment.

 




Custom worktables and benches--sized specifically for lower grade students--accompany the outdoor growing grounds in raised planters and allow for instructional space. The gardens replaced the former dining patios and were located so that classrooms open up directly to them. Students coming from other areas of the lower campus pass through the gardents on their way to the playground.



As an environmental concern, stormwater was designed to be collected and treated on site. The playground manages and directs the water into two infiltration basins that are seamlessly located in the surrounding landscape. Engineered biofiltration units are used in areas where planting was limited.

With the re-imagined playground, Tarbut V'Torah embraces a landscape of innovation while marrying two goals: using the outdoors as a extension of the learning spaces and proudly telling a story that runs deep and is aligned with the educational goals of the community. The Israeli Discovery Playground is a place that inspires, allows for reflection, provides opportunities for exploration, and shares the culture of the Israeli people to new generations.

 






The new play equipment--rope-climbing obstacle courses, spinning discs and a lookout tower replaced an outdated structure and promotes health and exploration. The synthetic turf is from Field Turf. The large tree by the building is a California sycamore (Platanus racemosa).



About the author: Kari Kikuta is the project designer for LPA's K-12 education group. She is an active member of the American Society of Landscape Architecture and has contributed to the sustainable landscape of more than 15 California schools. Kikuta graduated from Cal Poly Pomona with a degree in landscape architecture.

 




The plants were selected to provide color, texture and visual interest, while paying homage to the native Israeli environment.

1 Peppermint willow (Agonis flexuosa)
2 Blue Hibiscus (Alyogyne huegelii)
3 Strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo)
4 Gold Medallion tree (Cassia leptophylla)
5 Fortnight lily (Dietes vegeta)
6 Lions Tail (Leonotis leonurus)
7 Matilija poppy (Romneya coulteri)
8 Geranium ('Rozanne' cranesbill)



Design Team
Landscape Architecture: LPA, Inc.
Kari Kikuta, RLA ASLA
Jeffrey Yamamoto, RLA
Lancelot Hunter, ASLA
Irrigation Design: Sweeney + Associates
Civil, Electrical & Structural Engineering: LPA, Inc.

Construction Team
General Contractor: DPR Construction
Concrete Contractor: Trademark Concrete Systems, Inc.
Landscape Contractor: Pierre Landscape

Manufacturers | Vendors
Drinking Fountain: Most Dependable Fountains
Lighting: Hydrel
Play Structures: Goric, Porter Athletics
Site Furniture: Polywood
Sport Surfacing: Plexipave
Synthetic Turf: Field Turf
Tree Grates: Urban Accessories
Trellis: Greenscreen
Wind Sculptures: Lyman Whitaker Kinetic Sculpture







Comment Box is loading comments...
hello

Related Stories



November 18, 2019, 10:38 am PDT

Website problems, report a bug.
Copyright © 2019 Landscape Communications Inc.
Privacy Policy