The new Pennsbury Greene is a sight to be seen. The playground, located in between the Smith Gym and the Loeb Performing Arts Center, has recently received a major upgrade.
An entirely new set of play equipment has been installed, adding new and improved play structures and activities.
The equipment was donated by the Greene family, who donated the original Pennsbury equipment several years ago in honor of a member of their family. The Greene family has many close ties to GFS: several family members attended GFS, and two grandchildren of the original donor are in 6th and 2nd grade. The Greenes decided to help upgrade the play structures, providing almost all new equipment to the space.
Beginning last spring, gradual changes have been made to the playground. In May, “spinning cups,” or small seats that spin around quickly, were installed on the outside perimeter of the playground. After the installation, the Lower School received some feedback from parents who were concerned about the safety of these new additions. To quell their fears and help establish guidelines for using the toys, Marie Larkin, the school Nurse, test-drove the seats themselves.
Careful examination of all new equipment has continued into the fall. New structures, such as a dodecahedron-shaped rock wall, a rope course, and a large play wheel, have all been intensely scrutinized by faculty and parents for safety concerns. Lower School Principal Kim Lewis said, “We have gotten feedback from assistant teachers as to how the kids interact with the equipment, and we have learned to limit the number of kids on each piece of equipment to allow all students to play safely.” Kate Garrity, a Lower School librarian, also said, “There is a manual for each playground, advising teachers on how to allow kids to play in the safest environment.”
The impact of this construction on Lower School students has been fairly minimal. The construction of the main parts of the playground and removal of the large chain-link fence separating the playground and Loeb Performing Arts Center took one week. During that week, “Students primarily used the Emlen and Kindergarten playgrounds, and the Commons for extra play space.” said Lewis. The largest projects were adding a base layer under the playground’s mulch to secure the structures to the ground, and setting up the structures themselves.
The new additions have many more purposes than other equipment in the past. Lewis said, “The point of these structures is to provide the children with a whole body activity. The different areas allow the children to have more full-body physical activity, which is different from something like swings.” But despite the physical advantages of these new toys, the swings are sorely missed. “I miss the swings a lot, because they were my favorite thing to play on.” said Anna Macdonald ’22. Alexander Okamoto ’14 also said, “The playground looks cool, but I miss the swings.”
The layout of the structures also has a different purpose. The structures are arranged in a circular fashion, encouraging students to cycle around the playground, going from one toy to another. Small elevated stepping stones enforce this cyclical movement, connecting pieces of equipment to each other.
So far, the new and improved Pennsbury Greene has been well received on all parts of the campus. Grayson King ’23 said, “I really like the new equipment. It’s really fun to play on, and my favorite part is the blue spinny chair.” And King is not the only one who admires the new structures. Maddie Daniel ’24 said, “I haven’t gone to that playground yet, but I really want to because it looks like so much fun.”
The fact that the playground now offers a wider range of activities has also been a hit with Lower School students. Margaret Harvey ’23 said, “I like all of the things on the playground. There are lots of things to do.” This also appeals to the Lower School faculty, who praise the Pennsbury Greene’s versatility. Kate Garrity said, “This playground is great because there is no one way to use this equipment. The kids can use it to express themselves, and depending on how they use it, they can make it come to life.”