On Tuesday, June 21, a sudden tornado touched down in Woodbine, MD. The damage to Willow Wood at Huntington Farms’ trees was devastating. WBAL’s Six O’Clock News was on the scene. They reported how the high winds ripped mature trees out of the ground. The pictures showed them in a tangled mass all around the farm. In addition, out-buildings were smashed flat, and fences were ripped apart. The day we visited, Kim Williams, who rents the space for her Willow Wood Farm Horse business, pointed out pieces of the horse barn’s roof perched up in a nearby tree.
Why were the RPCS Preschool teachers visiting this site? On the very day of the tornado, we were safe inside RPCS meeting with representatives of the Irvine Nature Center to plan a nature play space and living classroom. RPCS had been awarded a summer grant to visit other nature play spaces, and we had attended the two-day nature conference at Irvine Nature Center. In addition, we had just recently visited Brown Memorial Weekday School, and the folks at Brown were most generous with their time and advice. Our tour of their play space excited us to plan a similar space for our preschool children. At Brown Memorial, the most difficult part of making their space was locating downed live trees, obtaining permission to remove these trees, and then transporting them via flatbed truck to their school. The folks from Irvine also stressed how difficult it would be to obtain the live trees.
Megan Ferguson saw the WBAL story on the tornado. With her mind still brimming with the ideas that we had just discussed with Irvine, Megan had a brainstorm! She noted the name of the farm and its location, looked them up on WBAL’s app, and gave Willow Farm a call. She explained that RPCS was interested in their downed trees for a nature play space for the preschool. Kim Williams invited her to come out “right now.” Megan grabbed her husband’s truck and went to Woodbine where she met with Kim and the owner of the farm, Jayne Nessif. There she saw firsthand the devastation. Megan expressed how sorry she was for their loss. Can you imagine their duress at losing twenty to twenty five of their beautiful, mature trees? The vista would never be the same. Birds will never nest in those trees again. No one will hear the rustle of those leaves again or enjoy their shade. Megan told Jane and Kim that she was very interested in some of their trees. These two ladies loved the idea of donating their felled trees to a preschool. These trees will have a story to tell and keep alive for future generations of RPCS preschoolers. “Once upon a time, I was a mighty hickory tree. Then, a tornado felled me…”
Early the next day, Megan texted Jayne who responded quickly that “The tree people are here and working fast.” Megan and I met at school, and Lucy Haus and Carole Packett met us at Willow Farms. Indeed, Stabler Tree Services was making quick work of the downed trees, and the chipper was working hard! Many logs, limbs, and stumps littered the ground. The crew chief, David, allowed us to select the trees we wanted. We chose a hickory and a locust tree as they had been recommended to us by Irvine. Several men chain sawed through the longer segments and helped us load up the truck and the back fold-down space in Carole’s car. The Stabler workers could not have been kinder or more helpful. The cost to us? Two boxes of Dunkin’ Donuts munchkins!
So, back to RPCS where Gabriel from our maintenance staff helped us unload our trees. They were placed alongside another slew of “finds.” Lucy, Carole, and Sarah Pope had already scoured the piles of discarded objects in the rear of the school and scored a huge black plastic tube to be used as a play hut; flagstones for steps leading up our steep hill to a “music room” and “sit spots;” and wooden pallets for a variety of purposes to be determined as the planning continues. A real treasure hunt — and all for free!
The Preschool has big plans for the play space. We are working on our grant with Irvine, and we are developing a budget and a wish list. In the early stages of the planning, we are talking about raised beds, dry streams, natural wood carved furniture, a mud kitchen, a large climbing structure, and other exciting ideas.
Please feel free to contact any of the preschool teachers, Beth Casey, or our new Director of Early Childhood Education, Tynaya Quickley to find out more about the new play space plans. Take a moment to visit the vision board posted outside Tynaya’s office. We hope to attract some volunteers and folks with special talents to help make our vision a reality for the lovely children in our care.
The Preschool Team
Director: Tynaya Quickley
Teachers: Lucy Haus, Carole Packett, Sarah Pope, Megan Ferguson, Debbie Meyers, Noémie Fiske