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VIDEO: Early Learning Garden opens today

They say that play is a child’s work.

That doesn’t mean playtime should be turned into an eight- or 10-hour shift. It means that play time is as important to a child as a workday is to an adult. But no one said we couldn’t sneak a little learning into that playtime.

That’s what the Early Learning Sensory Garden at the Bodacious Brew drive-thru coffee shop is built to support. The garden’s grand opening is set for noon on July 20 at the Bodacious Brew-Thru at the corner of Baylen and Main streets in downtown Pensacola “The Brew-Thru is the drive-thru coffee and breakfast spot that is a sister shop to the Bodacious Brew. The Brew-Thru offers a menu of coffee, smoothies, and on-the-go breakfast items.

“Building an Early Learning City in Pensacola means showing how everyone in the community can do their part,” says Rishy Studer, owner of the Bodacious Family of Shops, which includes the Brew-Thru drive-thru coffee shop, the Bodacious Brew, the Bodacious Olive, SoChopped bistro and SoGourmet kitchen store.

The garden creates a play space that is fun and also supports the healthy development of a child’s brain. That is an aspect of the Studer Community Institute’s efforts to support healthy early brain development and school readiness in Pensacola.

“Kids learn best by doing, by getting their hands dirty and using all of their senses to explore and learn,” Rishy Studer says. “The garden gives parents stopping at the Brew a great spot where the kids can play, learn and grow. “

The Early Learning Garden, designed by Caldwell & Associates Architects, took elements of play and nature and worked to combine them into a learning space that is beautiful and fun.

Research shows that being in nature boosts a child’s brain development and ability to focus, to be creative and to solve problems, said Miller Caldwell III, one of the principals on the project’s design.

“Everything in the sensory garden — from the plants in the landscaping to the sand pit and the Tree Cookies kids can build with — is meant to encourage kids to play, learn and develop their minds and their bodies,” Caldwell says.

 

The sensory garden is part of Pensacola’s journey to becoming an Early Learning City, a place that supports parent engagement and early brain development with the help of the whole community.

That’s important because of the research that the Studer Community Institute has done that links a child’s kindergarten readiness to performance in school, and ultimately, in how ready for the workforce that child becomes as an adult.

In Escambia County, state education data indicates that only 66 percent of children are ready for school on the first day. Research indicates that children who are behind in kindergarten are more likely to struggle to keep pace with their peers throughout school and may be less likely to graduate high school on time.

Those education indicators are viewed as important economic development and prosperity markers for a community, too.

Says Quint Studer: “The location serves as a good opportunity to have children learn and to show the impact that building learning into the environment can make throughout the area as a variety of early learning methods are expanded to wherever children are. “