Familiar to many as a circular tent-like dwelling beloved by glampers and outdoors enthusiasts, yurts may not immediately come to mind in the context of early education. The folks at Apple Blossom Preschool in Barrington, however, found a new use for the nomadic abode. Their schoolyard yurt serves as both an educational experience and unique setting for community gatherings.
Apple Blossom Preschool is a holistic-based school focused on outdoor time “for children to learn and discover in nature,” shares chief strategy officer Carl Salvo. Students harvest and eat food from organic gardens, use their environment to learn and play, and avoid plastics and technology during their school day. When former
Governor Gina Raimondo announced the “Take It Outside” initiative during the pandemic, that was all the encouragement Salvo needed to bring a yurt onto school grounds in February of 2021. “I saw an opportunity to build the yurt to not only offer the STEAM program to our older preschoolers but also to offer the surrounding community the exposure to nomadic culture through our festivals and educational experiences,” Salvo says.
While the yurt only took a few hours to put up, additional time was spent making it self-sustaining and bringing it up to code. The rustic learning space has a sink with its own water tank, composting toilet, wooden floors, and electricity, among other amenities, but what makes it unique is its structure. Office manager Stephanie Turner explains that the circular design of the dome and walls “naturally creates a space for people to gather,” encouraging a sense of community and enjoyment of the outdoors.
Apple Blossom has leveraged this welcoming design by also hosting community events at the yurt. Last year saw a Nomadic Cultural Festival with crafts for kids, dance performances, and other educational experiences of Kazakh culture, as well as a winter event. “Last year’s Yuletide Event was created as another way to gather folks together for the benefit of supporting Apple Blossom’s scholarship fund, and to provide our community of families with a place where they could shop alongside their children in a familiar space,” says Salvo. The event was such a success, they plan to hold a second Yuletide Event this year on December 17. Attendees can expect hot chocolate and cider, local vendors and artists, family-friendly activities, and even a visit from Santa.
Thanks to the yurt, the preschool has become a local destination, and Salvo plans to make it a space for community use on the weekends, as well as a potential outdoor stay experience for students’ families. He shares, “we are so pleased to have had the state’s backing on an idea that no one really thought would catch on at a preschool – let alone be an asset to the local community.” AppleBlossomRI.com
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