Following pre-K teaching assistant Ariyana Jones’s death in December 2016, parents Jamie Iseman, Libby Sanchez and Angela Mirra wanted a permanent way to remember Jones.
And they finally have it.
“We landed on a lovely project, which we believe is the perfect way to honor a woman who was defined by her joyful and loving dedication to the children she educated,” Sanchez said.
It’s a mud kitchen in the pre-K play yard.
The genesis of the idea of Ariyana’s Kitchen was during a field trip to Art Beast Studio (2226 K St.), a place for children to explore various forms of art.
There, Iseman said, pre-K teachers Barbara Fackenthall and Donna Manning were “particularly taken by the multi-use, all-weather, outdoor mud kitchen – as were the kids, who couldn’t get enough of it.”
With their new idea, Iseman, Sanchez and Mirra went to the pre-K teachers and Jay Holman, director of the physical plant, to get their approval.
Afterward, to find funding, they met with head of school Lee Thomsen, director of advancement Carolyn Woolf and chief financial officer Bill Petchauer. The school agreed to act as a fiscal sponsor for the project, so Iseman, Sanchez and Mirra started fundraising.
When seniors Alexa Mathisen and Adam Dean heard about Ariyana’s Kitchen, they also wanted to help.
So they talked to Iseman and decided to donate funds from the senior gift to the pre-K and the kitchen.
Trent Sommers, Iseman’s friend, will provide architectural services pro bono, and Michael Duffy, a finish carpenter, will construct the kitchen during the summer. Then the kitchen will be moved it to the pre-K play yard.
Construction is expected to take six to eight weeks, and the unveiling and dedication celebration will be held in early August.
The kitchen will be big enough for eight to 10 kids to play with at a time, Fackenthall said.
“We’ll be able to stage various activities there,” she said. “We could put something there that (the students) could count or measure; we could use it for science; we could bury letters of the alphabet in the recessed tub and give them tongs to find the letters.”
“Its initial intent is to be a structure that will support positive, interactive, social play. But within that, there will be so many other activities that will be embedded in it.”
The kitchen will have a sand container, a water tank, two sinks, a griddle, a stovetop and a memorial plaque in the shape of a banana – in honor of Jones’s nickname – engraved with the words “Ariyana’s Kitchen.”