Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our residents at Woods are unable to take field trips and visit sites this summer like they traditionally have in the past. Thanks to the collaboration of our recreation department and maintenance team, Woods has replicated those community experiences for our residents to enjoy on campus.
This summer, Woods has transformed our campus to create an outdoor-friendly recreation experience for our residents, who range from as young as five to over 80 years of age. Several outdoor installations have been built by our maintenance team, which provide entertainment and education for our residents while also keeping them physically active.
One of those new installations is a nature trail, which winds through the woods and allows our residents and caregivers to appreciate the tall and impressive trees on campus. Midway through the trail is a clearing for Woods’ new outdoor classroom, which has already been used to kick off the first week of outdoor learning with a lesson on a live boa constrictor!
That’s not the only animal that has visited the campus recently, though. A large fenced in barnyard was also built as part of the recreation program, where our residents have cared for three alpacas, three baby goats, horses, and chicks. Residents have also built homes for toads through arts and crafts and have even received a visit from a one-year-old box turtle.
The barnyard and the nature trail have been received very well so far from the residents as well as their loved ones who have been able to start visiting the residents again late June, according to Beth O’Toole, assistant vice president of recreation and aquatics. “We’ve heard nothing but good things,” she said. “Families could walk over to the barnyard, and the reactions from their parents have been awesome.”
The barnyard and nature trail are just two of many activities that Woods residents can experience this summer as part of their recreation program. Woods’ new sensory garden, planted with lavender and mint to smell, also provides them a chance to see its wind spinners and hear its wind chimes. A 9-hole miniature golf course has also been installed on campus for their enjoyment, along with an outdoor movie theater that can accommodate groups of 10 while keeping the residents socially distant.
Woods’ recreation department is comprised of a team dedicated to providing a fun, educational, and safe environment for our residents. O’Toole started at Woods as a lifeguard while completing her freshman year at Clarion University. Now, holding a degree in special education and early childhood education, O’Toole has combined her passion for teaching children with years of experience at Woods to bring a variety of activities to Woods’ backyard. One may think that creating this recreational space in response to the pandemic was a daunting task, especially given the short time period. However, the project was looked at as more of an opportunity than a challenge, said O’Toole. “We were given the opportunity to step back, take a look at things, and ask ourselves, ‘How can we be as accommodating as possible to our residents? How can we make this the best summer ever?’”
The enhancements to the recreation program did not begin with building the outdoor facilities. Earlier this year, O’Toole and her team at Woods responded quickly and creatively to residents having to be quarantined in their residence facilities due to the pandemic. The recreation department started a daily television show called Woods World News that aired in the residence halls and includes a segment on world news and a message from our staff members to give our residents an opportunity to still see their faces. Boredom buster jars were sent to our residents with packets and activities, as well as themed baskets for movie nights and spa packages.
Now that our residents can have some outdoor fun this summer, Woods’ highly sought-after outdoor swimming pools (Brown Hall and Oakwood) have also reopened to add to the exciting news. Although the number of residents allowed in the pools at one time has decreased to encourage social distancing, the pools are still presented as another option for our residents to have some fun in the sun.
Thanks to our recreation department and maintenance team, our residents will have a summer to remember!