By Meghan Loder
RUMSON – The Congregation B’nai Israel is taking the everyday playground to new heights with its construction of an Outdoor Exploratorium.
Last October, the congregation learned its playground was no longer up to the state Department of Community Affairs code. Suzanne Wycoff, director of Gan Yeladim Early Childhood Learning Center at the 171 Ridge Road temple, decided that instead of just tweaking the playground to meet the standards, she wanted to build a space that “was different then just a playground, and something kids could utilize for more than just recess.”
The new space is going to be equipped with more than just play equipment. It will feature art easels, water stations, outdoor instruments and a trike path. The space also will include an open field and a story house.
“The story house is going to be an outdoor covered space, that teachers can use anytime for circle time, story time and for kids to use to put on plays for each other,” Wycoff said.
Wycoff stressed the importance of the new space for the children. “In this time of technology, with children always on computers and on iPads, kids forget that there is nature outside,” she said. “They forget to take care of the resources that are around them.”
The exploratorium will also feature a purple martin birdhouse with three types of bird feeders that were donated for the project. They will be located at the back of the open space area as well as butterfly plants that were donated.
“I hope that our children will have many opportunities to observe our feathered and winged visitors,” Wycoff said.
With the opportunity to observe nature in place, there is a plan to add a garden to the area so that the children will be able to grow vegetables that can be used in the synagogue kitchen.
Ground was broken for the Outdoor Exploratorium on Tuesday, June 10. Synagogue officials expect it to be ready use by June 30, which is the start of summer camp.