UPDATE, August 14, 2014 / Naper Settlement and the Naperville Heritage Society hosted the ribbon cutting for the new Rita (Fredenhagen) and John Harvard Early Learning Playscape in advance of the official opening to the public at 1PM on Sun., Aug. 17.
UPDATE, August 9, 2014 / If all continues to go as scheduled, it appears the new Early Learning Playscape will be open the weekend of August 17. The fun features of the Playscape include Naperville’s only Splash Pad, a fort-themed playground, trading post, animal track path and more to engage youngsters in wonder and learning.
UPDATE, July 12, 2014 / Just seven months after the generous gift officially was announced by the Naperville Heritage Society, the Rita (Fredenhagen) and John Harvard Early Learning Playscape is going up, up, up, and spreading out over a spacious area at Naper Settlement, Chicagoland’s outdoor history museum. Despite some delays due to inclement rainy weather that prevented progress, the new fort area with a refreshing water feature is expected to open later this summer.
The “splash pad,” the first and only one to date in Naperville, will be a paved area within the playscape with water jets, set to create a cool place for kids to play during hot summer days.
Other areas such as the “trading post” will allow learning and physical activity while parents and caregivers observe their young learners interacting and engaging in play throughout the area formerly known as Fort Payne at Naper Settlement.
In addition to the gift from John and Rita Harvard, the playscape has been funded by the City of Naperville’s Special Events and Cultural Amenities Fund (SECA) and the Capital Improvement Program, the Naperville Park District, along with donations from individuals and families. The design is by Hitchcock Design Group and Wight & Co. The general contractor is Kee Construction of Chicago.
Original Post, Dec. 5, 2013 / Funding will support Fort Payne early learning area
An early learning experience for Naper Settlement’s youngest visitors will soon become a reality thanks to the generous donation of John and the late Rita Harvard, longtime supporters of the Naperville Heritage Society and Naper Settlement. Their substantial lead gift will be used to build a new early childhood education area, which will be named “The Rita (Fredenhagen) and John Harvard Early Learning Playscape.”
“We are grateful to John and Rita for this generous and important gift, and for their dedicated support and enthusiasm for the Naperville Heritage Society and Naper Settlement,” said Naper Settlement President and CEO Mike Krol. “We are honored to have their name on the new playscape, which incorporates the museum’s mission of education for all children.”
The Harvards volunteered at Naper Settlement for many events, including the Naperville Heritage Society Antiques Show, Christmas Memories, Heritage Housewalks and Joe Naper Days.
“Children and education are extremely important,” John Harvard said. “Without a supportive environment, they lose out on an opportunity to be creative. The children of tomorrow are our future. We want Naperville families with young children to better understand the community’s heritage, to become a part of it, and have a place for them to learn through play.”
A lifelong resident of Naperville, Rita Harvard was an educator who believed in giving back to her community and volunteered in many capacities, becoming the first woman president of the Rotary Club of Naperville and was named Rotarian of the Year. This annual award now bears her name. Her avid volunteer spirit was acclaimed and honored by many community organizations, including the Board of Fire & Police Commissioners, Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce and Naperville Jaycees.
Rita’s mother, Grace Fredenhagen, was one of the volunteers who helped open the Martin Mitchell Museum in 1939 as the City of Naperville’s history museum. While in high school, Rita volunteered as a docent, giving tours of the Victorian mansion. Here she learned much about Naperville and the benefits of volunteering.
The 10,000-square-foot interactive area will be targeted to young children ages two to seven. It will allow for investigation and discovery of the natural and historical environment by children with a broad spectrum of capabilities and will be accessible to children with special needs. It will serve as the cornerstone for a new focus on early childhood education at Naper Settlement and complements the existing indoor hands-on learning areas found in the History Connection family and youth activity center and the Log House.
“Their gift is a catalyst for our museum to move forward with its bicentennial vision of becoming Chicago’s premier outdoor history museum by Naperville’s 200th birthday in 2031,” said Dave Kelsch, past chairman of the Naperville Heritage Society board of directors and chairman of the capital campaign.
For more info about all the features, programs and special events at Naper Settlement, visit www.napersettlement.org.