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A Coeducational School | Early Learners to Third Grade

Bear Sighting Expected in Natural Habitat

Today, with scaffolding in place on Beauvoir’s state-of-the art playground, the tools came out to begin a unique sculpture. Local woodcarver Jack Kemp stood alongside a prominent, massive trunk of a very special tree, which will resonate with current students and alumni alike. In an effort to preserve the legacy of this tree and the shared memories of play under its protective shade, a new friend will soon appear. Misfortune has given way to optimism in action.       

In the middle of June 2020, Sandra Flowers, Director of Horticulture & Grounds at the Washington National Cathedral, delivered the sad news to Beauvoir’s CFO, Mary Jane Perraut. The magnificent, sheltering Scarlet Oak located between the turf field and basketball court on the Beauvoir playground was dying and would have to be removed. While a Special Permit application was filed and the District Department of Transportation’s (DDOT) arborist inspected the tree, Ms. Flowers wrote, “I just thought that we had best begin thinking together about this situation and how to deal with the loss of our favorite playground tree.”

It didn’t take long for the wheels of creativity to start turning at Beauvoir, inspired by Head of School Cindi Gibbs-Wilborn to view this as an opportunity to preserve childhood memories. “For over eight decades, children have received loving shade and protection from this beautiful tree, whether sitting underneath it for a game of marbles, working through a disagreement, or using it as home base during a game of tag. These same children have gone on to spread their roots and grow just as the Scarlet Oak, providing comfort and protection for their own children and grandchildren. Sharing the importance of tradition in the lives of young children has always been a component of Beauvoir’s work with students and something we do well. It is through these moments that children understand their personal impact in the greater world around them.”

A working group led by Drew Mackay, Director of Specialists, Learning and Teaching, responded with ideas to include carving the Beauvoir Bear mascot out of the trunk and reusing some of the wood as a means of honoring the tree, which was well over 100 years old. Librarian Tony Hurst, a woodworker in his own right, recommended a local woodcarver in Jack Kemp. Science Teacher Tricia Fort gathered teaching materials in acorns and saplings, with an eye for replanting to continue the tree’s legacy. Mr. Mackay added, “We also saved some of the leaves and slices of the tree to do observations on the rings and use as stepping stones.” The Facilities team managed by Jose Hernandez collected the limbs of the tree to reuse in support of retaining walls near the pyramid slide where the older logs have weakened over time. Visual Arts teacher Kaitlyn Hay offered sketches of a bear to be carved out of the remaining 12-foot trunk on the playground.

The woodcarver began his craft in earnest today. His final sculpture of a child-friendly bear will complement the surrounding play equipment’s natural materials, with a nod to German engineer Peter Heuken, and his company Richter Spielgeräte GmbH, who designed and constructed Beauvoir Outdoors in 2012. Stay tuned for a bear sighting to occur in this natural habitat and, in the meantime, please visit www.beauvoirschool.org!

Photographs: Drew Mackay

Helen D. Macsherry, Executive Assistant to the Head of School

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At Beauvoir, the National Cathedral Elementary School, we provide an extraordinary early childhood education in a diverse community that values every individual. Beauvoir’s program encourages creative, courageous learners and builds an enduring foundation for a lifelong spirit of inquiry and joy in learning.
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