MARYKNOLL PRESCHOOL PLAY AREA
Happy voices of children at play can be heard on the corner of Wilder Avenue and Alexander Street. Preschool and Kindergarten students gleefully ride on their new meandering tricycle path. Low keiki height seat walls allow teachers to hold classes outside under the shade of a Breadfruit Tree or a Native Kou Tree. Students have the opportunity to garden or create science projects in 3 raised planter areas. And best of all, they can see how fruit trees and native plants used in the Hawaiian culture grow.
Until the recent Maryknoll School landscape renovations, there were few places for the students to play. Maryknoll Grade School was one big asphalt playground. This new functional playground space creates a safe area for the Preschool, Kindergarten and First Grade children to play and learn, while exploring and using their motor skills. In the year 2000, Maryknoll transformed this little 5,000 square foot property, formally an old retired couple’s residence, into an early childhood garden complete with a tricycle path, reading areas and garden areas.
Remembering my childhood and the thrill of seeing a Star Fruit growing on the stem of the tree was one of the inspirations in providing fruit trees such as the Star Fruit Tree, Surinam Cherry Tree and Breadfruit Tree in this learning garden. Flowering Trees such as the Puakenikeni Tree and Native Kou Tree could be used by the children to make leis. Gingers and Gardenias were planted for their fragrance. Native Hawaiian plants such as the Native Hawaiian White Hibiscus, ‘Akoko, Ma’o, Naio, Red ‘Ilima, Pohinahina, Kupukupu Fern, ‘Ahinahina, Hinahina, Beach Naupaka and Mountain Napaka (as legend goes, the children can match the Beach and Mountain Naupaka half shaped flowers to make a whole blossom). Plants were selected to enable the students to see how plants grow, to taste fruits and to smell the fragrant flowers. A double row of Mock Orange shrubs were planted to grow high enough to enclose the Preschool Play Area from the busy, noisy traffic on to the Wilder Avenue and Alexander Street intersection. Teaching children at a young age to appreciate plants and tend their own gardens will hopefully help them attain an appreciation for Hawaii’s greenery and a lifetime of environmental responsibility.
The gradual grade of the tricycle pathway ramp connecting the existing Knoll Building classrooms to the playground was created so that the children could safely reach their playground. Adjacent to the pathway, are low keiki height seat walls to hold outdoor classes and 3 garden areas for planting and growing edible herbs and vegetables.
The project has had a positive effect on the public’s perception as evident by all of the grandparents who helped provide the funds and came out to celebrate the opening of the Maryknoll Preschool Play Area along with the faculty, staff and students.
There is nothing more fulfilling than seeing the exuberance in the happy faces of the Maryknoll keikis as they run out into their new Maryknoll Childhood Garden.
Maryknoll Preschool Play Area was recognized for an American Society of Landscape Architects Award of Honor in the Private Residences and Gardens in 2003.