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Project Update: Hawthorne Elementary

Here at Pomegranate, we’ve long believed that a school playground is more than a place for kids to run around at recess. It’s a community gathering place where kids connect with the outdoors through open-ended learning. We also know that the process of designing and building a playground is more than a construction project. It’s an opportunity to bring a school’s community together and create a rich platform for student learning and legacy.

We’re testing this core belief once again through the planning and design process for the Hawthorne Community STEAM Exploration Space Design Project. Our latest school project brings the Hawthorne Elementary community together to re-imagine the play space for the benefit of the school community and the greater neighborhood.

“We hope that the design process will result in not only a beautiful new play and exploration space for our children and a gathering space for our community, but also a tangible example of what we can achieve when we join together,” says Hawthorne PTA member Peter Schumacher.

We are also excited about this project because of our continued partnership with Jason Medeiros. He has been working in the classrooms to leverage this project for  S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) learning, with students having a direct opportunity to participate and shape the final design of the space. In our view, it’s never too early to start practicing collaborative intelligence and show the next generation what is possible when we all work together.

Leon Smith of Portland’s Earthplay joins us again to consult on nature and interactive play. Leon brought in his toolkit an innovative approach to play currently being explored in Portland: the PlayPod, which allows for kids to explore creative play with loose parts during recess. Following the Theory of Loose Parts, which says that the more variables there are available to kids in the play environment, the more potential for complex creative play, our team spent an afternoon letting Hawthorne students’ imaginations run wild. Even on a typically rainy winter day, the kids engaged with their environment because it was more open, flexible, and served as a blank canvas for imaginative play.

Jason’s classroom work and Leon’s PlayPod brought enthusiasm to Hawthorne students, and that enthusiasm spread beyond the school walls. Our first community meeting was attended by a staggering 140 community members, who came ready to share ideas and explore their collective vision for the new playground.

Following our recent design charrette, we’re halfway through the preliminary design phase, and next up is our community meeting where we will present design options to the community members and gather feedback. Check out some of the pictures from the project so far, and stay tuned for more updates as the project progresses.