Take A Look! Dazzling New Outdoor Spaces At Wildwood Elementary School

Update: Emma Katznelson is now the admissions director at Wildwood. See our profile of her HERE.

I was honored to be invited to Wildwood Elementary School for a tour of their new outdoor learning and play spaces on Friday. Ever since my step-mom and co-author, Anne Simon, served as head of Wildwood’s Elementary School, I’ve had a special place in my heart for the school.

Landis Green, the head of school, is a friendly, experienced and truly inspiring educator. Sitting in his office on a sunny afternoon, I chatted with him about a range of subjects, from kindergarten admissions to teacher hiring and standardized test preparation, I got the sense that he truly loves his job. Afterwards, Katie Rios (head of the elementary school), Jennifer Rowland (communications director) and Chantelle Pierre (admissions director) were gracious enough to show me the new outdoor spaces, which were completed just in time for the start of the new school year. 

Designed to inspire children’s imaginations and connect them to nature in a space that allows for creative play of all types. The transformation is incredible!

Wildwood Elementary School’s new outdoor play space: Big Yard Woods

Pretty green trees, shade, water and native California plants define Wildwood Elementary’s lush new play and learning spaces, designed by world-class garden designer Nancy Goslee Power. Removing a large, 11 year-old play structure from Wildwood’s “Big Yard” (but leaving the main athletic field for P.E.), and adding ground cover made of ProDeck, a soft-synthetic mulch with 70 percent recycled tires, Nancy and a team of school administrators and teachers created a magical new play experience that mimics the natural world.

The Arroyo: A dry creek bed and a bridge for kids to sit on
The Arroyo: kids create dams and water-oriented projects
Play spaces that spark children’s imaginations
A hand pump allows water to flow through creek-like stream bed
A bright red wooden play structure
My particular favorite: a stunning shaded archway covered in willows and grapes

The Outdoor Classroom

The outdoor classroom is complete with a white board installed on a topiary

The curriculum of the outdoor spaces includes:

  • All students will have an opportunity to work in the gardens.
  • Grades 2-5 will have their own garden bed in the outdoor classroom to learn about tending, nurturing, and composting.
    • 2nd grade will create a wildlife garden to attract butterflies and other critters.
    • 3rd grade will grow edible gardens using seasonal, native vegetables
    • 4th grade will create a garden based on plants introduced by European settlers
I watched a teacher holding class outside

Nestled on an urban campus, Wildwood Elementary School’s spectacular new outdoor spaces combine eco-friendly beauty and learning. What could be better than that?
For more information, visit, www.wildwood.org

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Christina Simon: Los Angeles, California, United States I'm the mom of two kids who attended The Willows School in Culver City and Viewpoint School in Calabasas. My daughter is a graduate of Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism ('23) and my son is a sophomore at UPenn/Wharton ('26). I live in Coldwater Canyon with my husband, Barry, and our dogs. Contact me at csimon2007@gmail.com

5 thoughts to “Take A Look! Dazzling New Outdoor Spaces At Wildwood Elementary School”

  1. Wow. Christina, the new space looks so lovely. Living in a big, metropolitan city like Los Angeles, we don't often expect to get a chance to share nature on a regular basis with our children. How wonderful that Wildwood saw how important it is to learning and general well-being. I'm excited to see it in person!

  2. Wow. Christina, the new space looks fantastic! Living in a big, urban city like Los Angeles we don't often get a chance to let our children experience nature on a daily basis. How wonderful that Wildwood saw how important that can be not only to learning, but to helping raise children who understand that the outdoors is a valuable part of our world. I'm excited to see it in person!

  3. I am touched by my step-daugther Christina's sensitive and insightful response to her recent visit to Wildwood's outdoor learning and play space, and I applaud my wonderful former school for preserving something I feel is so essential to the learning and growth of children. Constructing an environment where children can create, imagine and explore is a tremendous gift. There is so much that children can discover on their own in this space.
    When I was elementary school age, my mother allowed us to take over a plot of dirt under the eucalyptus trees in the far corner of our fenced backyard. Two of my brothers, a few neighbors, and I spent many hours creating a world of our own – lakes with bridges, locks and dams, surrounded by our castles and moats. We had only garden trowels and a dripping hose as tools, and Mom even came out and taught us the fine art of mud-drip architecture. We argued, negotiated, and agreed on our plans and carried them out. After a while something would happened to destroy our efforts and we would start all over again. By the end of the summer we had learned a great deal about absorption, erosion, water flow – but mostly we learned how to work together to create something and how to problem solve the inevitable stumbling blocks along the way. We were finally able, with the help of leaves, twigs and rocks, to make the water stay in the lakes for some time. What a triumph!
    Space in nature, opportunity, and time – I am grateful to my parents and to my school, Chadwick, for providing me with an abundance of these things growing up. I am grateful to Wildwood for bringing these back into the lives of their students.
    Our backyards have become too small and structured for many children to find the space where they can dig. Our neighborhoods do not include opportunities for kids to play together in a safe but unsupervised manner. Our sense that we need to have to schedule extra curricular activities for our children has robbed them of the time to just be creative and use their own imaginations. Wildwood has wisely brought the natural space, the opportunity and the time to their students.
    My step-daughter in LA recently moved to a new house with her family. I recently got to spend a few days with them, during just regular weekday time with my grandchildren going to school and such. Their new place offers their kids some of the opportunities I speak of. One of my fondest memories of this trip was going outside and shooting baskets with my 8 year old grandson after school. He is passionate about sports (and very talented I might add), and he just wants to spend his time doing it – whatever is available at the moment. After I was worn out, his dad came out and played with him and I went in to listen to my granddaughter practice her guitar.
    Environment, opportunity, and time – to imagine, to create, to learn!

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