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Grant from ASU’s Greek Week Funds Innovative Play Structure: ‘Gnome Home’ at The Children’s Playhouse

Sept. 10, 2012. Children of all ages have been enjoying the new “Gnome Home” which seemingly magically appeared at The Children’s Playhouse this summer. Funded by a generous “Greek Week Mini Grant” from Appalachian State University’s Fraternity and Sorority Life, the hand-built, green-roofed play cabin is a capstone on a two-year effort to create an enchanting and educational outdoor play space at the High Country’s only children’s museum.

The Gnome Home was built by local builder/artist Rodney Underwood (http://www.rodneyunderwood.com) from locally harvested locust logs and hemlock siding and features a green roof planted with sedum plants donated by Mustard Seed Market.  “My kids love climbing inside and using the bucket and pulley to move pinecones around” said mother Tara Stollenmaier White.  

“The Gnome Home is actually Phase II of our efforts to create an outdoor garden space that will connect families to nature and their imaginations,” explains Executive Director Kathy Parham.  She said that grants from the Clabough Foundation (http://www.claboughfoundation.com/) and the Boone Unitarian Universalist Fellowship as well as individual donations helped them build beautiful rustic shade structures and a locust fence around two play areas at the museum. Picnic tables, a wide inviting cedar swing and a riot of flowers create an outdoor space that invites families to linger and enjoy their time together.

Classics like a working water pump, an ample sandbox, the Gnome Home’s bucket and pulley, and pintsized wheel-barrows encourage kids to work together and solve problems, Parham said. “Another favorite are these ‘wood cookies’” she said, holding up simple branch slices made by former board member Pam Allen. “Kids love to move them around and they can be everything from fuel for our big wooden train to a stack of pancakes. One little girl even used them to build a throne.”   The museum invites donations of non-toxic plants and natural materials such as large stones, straw, pine cones or even piles of leaves to add to the experience.  Wind chimes are also sought to add a musical element.

The museum’s outdoor programming is inspired in part by the Good to Grow leadership initiative by Association of Children’s Museums (http://www.childrensmuseums.org/programs/health.htm )and the national Let’s Move! Museums and Gardens campaign (http://www.letsmove.gov/blog/2011/05/23/announcing-lets-move-museums-and-gardens) championed by the First Lady. Both initiatives stress the importance of an active lifestyle for children’s healthy development.

The Gnome Home was one of several community projects funded by the Greek Week mini-grants. Kyle Jordan, former assistant director for Fraternity and Sorority Life, said “the Appalachian State University Fraternity and Sorority Community wants to continue pursuing our goals of serving as a part of the High Country community and helping non-profit organizations serve our area.”  Other recipients included The Boone Bicycle Initiative, Mountain Alliance and the Watauga County Habitat for Humanity.

About The Children’s Playhouse

A nonprofit children’s museum founded in 2002, The Children’s Playhouse provides an enriching play environment for children from birth to age eight while at the same time offering parents and caregivers friendly support in the important job of raising children. It is located at 400 Tracy Circle near downtown Boone.  Daily admission is $5 per person. A one year Playhouse Passport Membership for $125 includes admission to The Playhouse and more than 150 children’s museums nationwide. Scholarship memberships are available for families that meet income guidelines. The Children’s Playhouse is supported in part by grants from the Barnickel Foundation, the Janes Foundation, the Town of Boone, the High Country Women’s Fund, the High Country United Way, Boone Service League, and donations from individuals.  For more information, call 828-263-0011, like it on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/Childrens.Playhouse ) or visit the website, www.goplayhouse.org.