When visiting Hanna Fenichel Center for the first time, it immediately becomes apparent that our school is a unique and happy place. Besides noticing the smiling faces, people notice the architecture and design elements that reflect the joys of childhood that transcends all ages (hopscotch anyone?) and the nearby ocean. There are whimsical touches that make us smile.
While the lower playground reflects bright beach ball colors, sandy beaches and animals from the sea, the upper playground/Garden Classroom has hidden treasures that visitors and even new teachers don’t always notice at first. But these landmarks are just as beloved as the more noticeable elements found in the lower playground. Once someone spots one of the items in the Garden Classroom, an exclamation usually comes out. “Wow! I never noticed that before! I love that!”
As a way to celebrate the beloved icons and help the children notice the finer details of our outdoor classroom, I created a game called, “Seek and Find.” The game consists of about 12 small photos printed and laminated back to back and hung on a keychain. The photo featured in the keychain is our most well-known and beloved landmark of all – the mosaic “dinosaur” or “dragon” or “alligator” or “komodo dragon” – or whatever a child wants to call it. The key chains are kept in a wood box that can be found on the back fence near the Art Cottage. You can spot it by the sign mounted on the box that says, “LOOK.” The idea is to look at a photo and then find the actual item. The game has proved to be immensely popular and children have been playing it over and over again, especially while partnering with a friend or two. Besides the large mosaic reptile, children look for such familiar items as the ceramic rabbit, blue birdhouse, or “Mr. Tree” our wonderful pepper tree that features eyes, mouth and a mustachioed nose. Harder to spot and less familiar, are several handmade tiles amongst many plastered on the side of the shed and bushes in the mud pit. Besides helping children to be more observant, practice memory skills and working collaboratively with a friend this game will help the children remember their early years spent at the magical place we call Hanna.
As I watch the children run from here to there looking for an unknown item or revisiting a favorite, I am reminded of the familiar landmarks of my childhood. Most of them are trees. One in particular was a tree with a large shady (at least in my memory) canopy where we gathered together during recess while I lived on Midway Island when I was in the 2nd and 3rd grade. Do you have a favorite landmark from your childhood where you gathered together with friends, offered you comfort or make you smile at the memory?