Mid-Atlantic Episcopal School Association: Girl-Centered Playground Design at St. Catherine's School

By Dr. Annie Kapetanis
Director of Lower School, St. Catherine’s School

     As an all girls school, St. Catherine’s is constantly looking for opportunities to implement best practices in the education of girls. With the decision to begin construction of a new turf field, additional parking and Arts and Innovation Center that involved deconstructing the existing playground, the Lower School seized this opportunity to completely redesign the new play space with girls in mind. Faculty and students were included in the initial design process, with the physical education team playing an especially critical role in incorporating the latest research. The School chose to partner with Kompan because of their cutting edge playground designs and their ability to match playground and fitness pieces to meet the needs that we believed to be important. The result was a custom-designed playground intentionally created for girls.
     The playground provides opportunities for our girls to develop their core and upper body strength, as well as improve balance and spatial awareness, while providing spaces that allow for brain breaks, socialization, collaboration, imaginative play and problem solving. The equipment chosen, particularly the main feature called the Explorer Dome, helps the girls to develop their proprioceptive and vestibular senses, understanding the position and movement of their bodies in relation to the space and location of others around them. This playground is part of St.Catherine’s commitment to promoting health, wellness and physical fitness.
     An added benefit of the process was discovering an organization called Kids Around the World. One of their objectives is to provide playgrounds to schools in one of 60 countries that have communities that have been devastated by war, disaster, or poverty. With their help, the old Lower School playground was dismantled and reassembled in a school in Haiti. It was fitting that the conclusion of this specific journey allowed yet another opportunity for the girls to see the School’s mission and motto in action and learn that kindness and charity have no bounds.
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