There are many aspects of our new Lower School that make it a unique place to learn, but one of the most outwardly noticeable is the life-size tree sculpture that sits in the middle of the Pre-K and Beginner neighborhood.
“When we landed on the neighborhood concept for the new Lower School, there was conversation around how to make each neighborhood unique...a signature piece,” explained Early Childhood Director Amy Cuccia. “Pre-K learns about ‘the world outside my window’ throughout the year and a natural choice was to create an outdoor-like feel for their indoor neighborhood.”
With this idea in mind, Early Childhood teachers and administrators met with Upper School Sculpture teacher Dane Larsen to come up with a design for the space. Once a plan was in place, Larsen, along with several of his AP Sculpture students, got to work last summer bringing the concept to life.
“Having the tree in the neighborhood is a wonderful reminder to cherish the natural curiosity that young children carry with them,” said Cuccia. “It is an immediate draw; they want to touch it, climb inside the nooks and crannies, play chase, and build forts.”
In addition to providing a special focal point for the first floor of the new building and an indoor play area for our youngest Eagles, the tree has also been incorporated into lesson plans and weekly activities.
“The tree has served as a gathering place,” said Pre-K teacher Laura Waggoner. “The Beginners have daily chapel under the tree and individual Pre-K classes gather underneath for special lessons.”
The intentional, multi-purpose design of the Lower School tree is an excellent example of ESD’s approach to education and academic support. Much like Harkness tables in our Upper School classrooms and the new mobile library in Lower School, these research-backed designs enhance the learning experience of our students. From age 3 to grade 12, it is a joy to see our students utilizing these spaces and growing intellectually as a result.