Visiting Springbank

By John Drew

Today I visited Springbank centre and had the opportunity to join the preschoolers with their walk to the cemetery.  I felt very welcomed by everyone and made to feel very comfortable even though it was my first fully involved visit to the preschool room.  I have been visiting the St. John centre regularly and it was very interesting to observe how the divergent outdoor spatial dynamics of these two sites impact the experiences of both the children and educators.

St. John centre is nestled in a new and quickly developing suburban enclave.  The road traffic is minimal and the school in which it is located backs into a small forest.  At St. John, the forest is the primary destination for outdoor visits and it is easily accessible.  At Springbank, the outdoor destination is of course the cemetery on the other side of the busy main stretch of Springbank Road.

As we began our walk to the cemetery, the contrast between the Springbank’s urban surroundings and St. John’s suburban environment became most apparent.  When we crossed the street and walked along the north side of Springbank Road I experienced the tension of navigating the preschoolers, hand in hand, safely along the street to our destination.  The looming London skyline, visible from our eastbound vantage point, further reinforced the impression of urban clamour.  In contrast, for the children and educators, the walk was a more routine encounter with a familiar environment, one to which alert but not intimidated.

At the cemetery the dynamics changed considerably.  Once we arrived at this fairly contained environment (a large portion of park-like field adjacent to the grave sites) the children were able to run and play throughout this fielded area.  This experience marked another difference from the forest experience at St. John.  The trees and the rough, uneven ground of the St. John forest prevent the preschoolers from doing much running.  We are also concerned with losing sight of children if they venture much beyond the group as you can easily lose sight of them among the trees.  In the cemetery field, there are no such issues with sightlines and the preschoolers are able to venture out so long as they respect the boundaries.  This openness was especially impressed upon me when some of the kids asked me to play tag with them.  As I ran with the preschoolers on the field (and maneuvering around a few of the isolated trees) I realized that the only time I’ve run with the children is on the way back from the forest (when we are safely on school grounds).

 Of course, the cemetery was formally known in the preschool room as the “deer park” because of the many deer sightings and encounters.  I was informed that no deer had been sighted in six weeks and today we were no luckier in spotting deer, but the experience was no less eventful.  Perhaps I will be apart of deer encounters in the future.