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St. John’s CDC 20 Year Celebration Gift: A New Outdoor Learning Environment

By Angel Owens

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the opening of the St. John’s Child Development Center in September 1999.

CDC Director, Courtney Bost, shares that in the past 20 years, families have expressed appreciation for a wonderfully dynamic learning center where children feel loved and nurtured while getting prepared for school.

All three of her own children have been enrolled in the program.

“It’s crazy how time flies,” says Courtney, who began working at the CDC in January 2002. Courtney has loved the opportunity to build relationships with the families and watch so many children grow up. She remembers that one of the first infants to go through the CDC was Tate Houpe, a former St. John’s youth member who is now running his own business, and another recent high school senior volunteer who was in the 2 and 3 year-old classes.

St. John’s member, Melissa Rhyne, sent both her daughters, now 10 and 8, from infant to preschool.

“We absolutely loved the CDC. The teachers went above and beyond to care for them. Overall, it was an amazing experience, and I just can’t say enough good things about them. 20 years — what a great impact to have on the community!”

Melissa admits she doesn’t know as much about what is happening at the CDC since her children have left, but her family still keeps in contact with some of the teachers they formed relationships with.

Another St. John’s member, Nichole Towns, has maintained a relationship with the CDC, as well. Returning for a visit to the CDC this July with her children, now 9 and 11, who were both in the program from infant to age 4.

“It’s hard for them to remember their teachers, but their teachers remember them,” says Nichole. “It was so nice for the teachers to see how tall they have gotten and to see that a lot of the teachers were still teaching the same ages. The CDC was a big part of encouraging my children’s development and growth, and the teachers were so caring.”

An Anniversary Gift for the CDC:
The New Outdoor Learning Environment

To celebrate the center’s 20th anniversary, the CDC staff, Advisory Committee, and the Congregation Council have approved a bold new vision, a new Outdoor Learning Environment to replace a severely outdated playground.

“The CDC began 20 years ago with a bold vision,” says Pastor Rhodes. “As we thought through our needs for a new playground, we quickly discovered that our kids needed us to embrace a bold new vision for outdoor learning. Our students have fewer and fewer opportunities to engage with the outdoors. ‘The woods’ is a thing of the past. Making mud pies and digging for worms is no longer part of our kids’ experience.”

“But our kids need the outdoors. They need creative engagement with the environment. They need outdoor space that encourages them to be creative and teaches them good stewardship. Traditional playgrounds feature static playsets that limit a child’s engagement and imagination. We want more than that for our kids.”

The playground committee, led by Amy Ritchie, spent two years researching options. Last summer, they teamed up with Catawba College’s Center for the Environment to brainstorm. They quickly became an enthusiastic partner and introduced the committee to NC State’s Natural Learning Initiative, which helps schools and municipalities design creative outdoor space for kids. After entering a competitive application process, NC State accepted the CDC’s proposal. Over the last 4 months, they have been working alongside teachers, parents, and community members to create a design that fits our particular needs.

The result is a highly creative, engaging space that takes full advantage of available land around the CDC in what will become an “urban oasis” of trees, rocks, streams, and play areas. An added benefit is that the design  is a far more affordable alternative than one made up of heavy, traditional playground equipment and rubberized mats. More importantly, it offers benefits to the children’s health, intellectual development, and creative engagement that is lacking in traditional playgrounds.

The plan offers age appropriate play areas, complete with drama stages, climbing areas for older children, gardens, water play, acoustic play, multi-purpose lawn, and much more.

“The CDC has poured out so much love over so many families these last 20 years,” says Pastor Laura. “Now is an opportunity for us to pour some love back into these kids through this new playground. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the 20th anniversary than with a gift that will pour love into these kids for years to come.”

Fundraising Campaign. The new Outdoor Learning  Environment will be built according to resources in hand. The project displayed to the right is expected to cost between $150,000-175,000. Council has authorized a funding campaign during the month of August and early September, with the hopes of raising enough money to complete site work and plant trees, etc., during the fall and winter, the opportune time for landscaping to be installed.

More information will be mailed to St. John’s members, CDC families, CDC alumni and community members. $20,000 in grants have already been secured, with the remainder of the funds coming from private contributions. Send your gifts to St. John’s, marked Playground Campaign.

Click here to view a pdf poster of the design.