Ancona outdoor learning space not quite ready for use

BY ALLISON MATYUS
Staff Writer

One look at Ancona School’s outdoor learning space, and it seems the project is far from completion with dirt piles and half built structures. According to Ari Frede, the Head of the School, the three part playground will not be accessible for tomorrow’s first day of school, but the project is reaching its end.

“The outdoor learning space is a construction project, so the same things that plague construction are things we have had to deal with,” Frede explained. “We are doing all the things we can to make it as safe and as gorgeous as it was designed to be.”

When Ancona broke ground on the innovative infrastructure mid-summer it was immediately confronted with some early difficulties. Frede said the soil had been contaminated from the previous property.

“We had to do a more serious excavation of the site by digging deeper, so we could properly and carefully dispose of the contaminated soil,” he said.

Delays were also attributed to a pipe bending issue early on in the construction.

Despite the trouble contractors have run into, Frede said he is confident that the finished product will be a sight to see.

“I have seen the layers of work and what is actually being built. I see an intense focus on the quality and know what they have put into building this,” he said.

The three-part outdoor space consists of innovative structures and activities to instill education with a dose of fun. A playing field that features natural grass turf and a gravel track will be used for recess and physical education.

The nature area consists of “principals of play” that the architects did research on, including sand and water elements and a hemisphere “dome” structure to emphasize team collaboration through physical activities while also problem solving.

Frede said the crown jewel of the outdoor space is the playground, consisting of the usual playground features of swings and slides while also housing an amphitheater space for classes to gather for outdoor learning.

Frede mentioned a fourth element that the school will be adding to its outdoor living space, which will include a farm and garden for kids to grow plants and work with solar energy. He said there is no immediate set plans for the garden area, but that it will be located past the field.

Frede said there are high expectations for the project’s completion, and that it should open within the first month of school to what he anticipates as an overwhelmingly positive reaction from teachers, students and parents.

a.matyus@hpherald.com