A unique, creative play space may soon be coming to Southold Elementary School, thanks in part to one generous local family.
Southold School Educational Foundation is fundraising to buy a custom-designed playground inspired by the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe old English nursery rhyme. The project’s GoFundMe page has netted more than $2,700 so far in just under a month, but a local family (who wishes to remain anonymous) has agreed to donate up to $10,000 in matching funds.
“We are so fortunate and so blessed that an anonymous Southold family has become aware of this campaign and has offered this donation to any new monies raised,” said school Superintendent David Gamberg. “The value of something like this can’t be stated.”
The idea of creative play spaces has been a brain-child of Gamberg’s for nearly a decade, he said.
“Many years ago, I began to dream of what I call a ‘play-scape experience’ that included a wide range of things, like the amphitheater and a garden, and it’s finally coming to fruition in Southold,” Gamberg said.
By bringing a nursery rhyme to life in the Mother Goose shoe, kids will have a way to interact with stories in a creative, fun way, Gamberg said.
“My goal is to reimagine the ‘brick and mortar’ classroom experience. Nowadays there are a lot of things we can do virtually, but there are also things that can’t and shouldn’t be substituted that way,” he said. “ I think what we’re creating at Southold — with the Mother Goose shoe, with the giant chess set, with the amphitheater, all these things — you can bring to life the kinds of things that you just can’t do virtually.”
He used the school’s garden as an example.
“When you plant a seed, and it grows into something — yes, you can watch that in a YouTube video, but it doesn’t provide the same learning experience,” Gamberg said.
The foundation has gotten quotes of around $30,000 to construct the 18-foot shoe. The school’s broadcast journalism program, SoHoTV, produced a video pitching the need for the creative play-scape to the online community. To date, it has raised $2,723.
“It sounds like a high cost — but for perspective, the cost to build a standard, basic classroom is $450,000. A plain classroom,” Gamberg said. “That’s my argument. People will look and say, ‘you don’t need this!’ But if we flip the script, if we reimagine the value of play and learning… we can go a long way.”
“The Mother Goose shoe will give them a vehicle to act out their stories and plays, gather with their teacher for a ‘read-aloud’ and to use their imagination. The possibilities really are endless — the Mother Goose shoe will be a welcome addition,” Southold Elementary School principal Ellen O’Neill says in the video.
“Every school ought to have something that’s unique that makes a healthy environment for learning possible,” Gamberg said. “We are seeing research that tells us the importance of childhood learning through play — that’s the vehicle, above any other medium or platform, that’s effective. The hours they spend in school, we can engage them through play, or we can engage them through worksheets. I think the research is clear the best preparation is in fact through play.”