Prince George's County Employee's Childcare Center in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, was formerly a prison. Today it is an imaginative garden that grows the young minds and bodies of kids ages 6 months to 5 years. The courtyard is divided into four play areas, where kids follow the journey of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. A larger-than-life caterpillar crawl tunnel welcomes explorers into an enormous, interactive garden. PlayBooster® playstructures are outfitted with flowers, ladybugs, bees, ants, mushrooms and leaves to create an immersive outdoor learning experience. As they travel through the garden—climbing giant blades of grass, playing in the butterfly-shaped sandbox and sliding down a flower petal—kids learn the skills they need to transition into kindergarten.
Transforming from prison yard to Grandma's yard
A former prison might seem an odd place for a childcare center. But places change over time, as do the people that inhabit those places. And when those people are between the ages of 6 months and 5 years, they experience a lot of change in a short amount of time.
The teachers and administration at Prince George’s County Employee’s Childcare Center, in Upper Marlboro, Md., have been celebrated by parents for cultivating a creative and loving environment for early childhood growth.
The school is attached to the County Courthouse and has cared for the children of many government employees over the years, including those of landscape architect supervisor, Brenda Iraola. So it became a very personal project when she was asked to help the staff re-imagine their existing play environment.
The journey begins
Drawing on the memories of her grandmother Freda’s farm in Minnesota, Brenda "With Landscape Structures, I don’t feel any limitation." landscape architect supervisor, MNCPP developed a fresh narrative for this space around the theme of Transformation. The courtyard was divided into four play areas, where kids followed the journey of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly.
A bugs-eye view
“Everything is an experience for a child. An adult uses the crosswalk, a child hops across each line,” said Brenda. And with the help of Landscape Structures, these children experience “Grammy’s Garden” from a bugs-eye view.
A larger-than-life caterpillar welcomes explorers into an enormous, interactive garden. Playstructures are outfitted with flowers, ladybugs, bees, ants, mushrooms and leaves to create an immersive storybook experience.
As they travel through the garden, kids learn the skills they need to transition into kindergarten. From counting to colors, to letters to imaginative play: children grow and develop together.
A world of detail
Getting the details just right was important to Brenda and her team. From three-dimensional pickles and lollipops to placing climbing grips and caterpillar eggs on enormous leaves sprouting from the ground, Landscape Structures found creative solutions to bring the concept to life.
"If you have a vision, Landscape Structures will work with you to bring it to life." Head of Sales, Sparks at Play
“Working with Landscape Structures is great. They don’t restrict the ability to be creative with clients,” says Isaac Sparks, head of sales with Sparks @Play. “They’re not going to tell you no.”
As the little caterpillars sit upon their pieces of fruit for story-time, reminders of who they’re still becoming stretch across the formerly imposing walls. The walls have become canvases. The space has been transformed. This garden hums with curiosity. And the children begin to stretch their wings.
Installed: May 2014