GaragePod is a community story.
It starts with my wife, our two sons and our neighbor Paula, who like myself, was a special education teacher. She lives down the hall from us. I’ve seen her daughter grow up. She’s watched our babies grow into young children.
During the height of the pandemic, days were spent in the back of our building: our children playing outdoors while the adults reconnected with nature. Nestled between the Old Croton Aqueduct and downtown Dobbs Ferry, our building offers a unique living experience. Besides being steps away from Main Street, our private garages open into the quiet serenity of Wickers Creek and its neighboring woods.
It is in the back of our building that my wife (interior designer, woodworker, sculptor) and I (her perpetual intern) got to work on fixing up our shared outdoor space. Since the pandemic only allowed us to see people outdoors, we salvaged bricks, cobblestones, strewn tree branches and fallen tree trunks to put some beauty back into the land. We built a stoned path down to the creek and a giant nest-like structure to protect our kids from falling over into the creek.
But this other thing was happening in the back of our building.
Out of the 40 garages, a handful of industrious folk were using their garage for purposes other than parking their car: a hobbyist mechanic shop, a woodworking/silk screening studio and a rock n roll rehearsal space.
And then there was our garage, which back then, was an amalgam of workout equipment, tools, musical instruments and sporting equipment. Ana and I knew we had to make a change to our garage space. We cleaned it up so that our children could have an indoor/outdoor playspace as as a way to have meaningful interactions with other people during the pandemic.
In September 2020, our oldest child would be starting kindergarten in the fall with an abridged schedule: only 2.5 hours of face to face instruction per day. As a parent, this worried me greatly. What would he do with the rest of his day at home? What would happen to his social skills? His body? His mind? That's when the idea came to me: what if I supplemented my son's day with a recreational pod run out of my garage? I'm a certified NYS teacher and so is Paula!
I crossed my fingers when I walked over to Paula's apartment to pitch her this idea. Would she co-teach with me? She had just retired from the Greenburgh school system after 30+ years of teaching. Would she go for teaching children in all weather out of my garage where the children could tinker indoors and also play outside in nature?
Yes! Yes she would!
By August 2020, we hit the ground running. I recruited children from my son's class and surrounding community. Paula developed a curriculum and allowed us to use all of her fabulous supplies and furniture, while Ana built and designed the entire space to create an operational framework. Thus GaragePod was born.
We launched in September 2020 with 3 families and by June 2021 we had 9 families and counting. We hiked in the woods, took field trips, participated in yoga/theater and music, painted, played with loose parts, slid down snowy hills, unearthed animals bones found in the creek, rode bikes, learned to communicate our feelings to each other, built a mud kitchen, gardened, collected rocks, painted rocks, threw rocks, built shelters, went on nature scavenger hunts, read books, read more books, wrote our own books and formed an amazing community of youngsters from different backgrounds, races and cultures. We are forever bonded by this experience and we are so excited to share this experience with the greater community of Dobbs Ferry and beyond.