Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New Book: Asphalt to Ecosystems

Sometimes you have to travel half way around the world to meet someone from your backyard. I had the pleasure of meeting Sharon Danks in Berlin at one of Frode Svane's study trips on natural play. Sharon has been working on schoolyard design in Berkley. She is energetic and inspiring, I am sure her new book will be the same.

The book is called Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation (New Village Press, November 2010).  Asphalt to Ecosystems makes the case for "green schoolyards" and for improving the ecology, learning, and play potential of school grounds. It is intended as a resource and idea book to inspire teachers, parents, school principals, and schoolyard designers. The book is filled with examples that show that many things are possible on school sites, and supports that idea with approximately 500 colorful photographs from roughly 150 schools in 11 countries.

Sharon Danks Author,  
Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation
New Village Press, November 2010

Monday, November 29, 2010

Boxerwood Play Trail

The Boxerwood Nature Center in Lexington VA has an impressive play and learning area for kids. I think their approach address their mission well, "to educate and inspire people of all ages toward becoming successful and environmentally responsible stewards of the earth." The play trail is only one stop on a system of trails that gives visitors access to wetlands, pine forests, springs and the great oak. Their site must attract visitors of all ages.

The Play Trail features a mud kitchen, rolling hill with tunnel, willow structures, recirculating creek, giant birdhouse and nest, climbing stumps and balancing logs. All the elements are located along a twisty path through an acre of woodlands. Bonnie Bernstein Director of Early Education at Boxerwood said, "we pride ourselves in having a space for young children that is unique in many ways, including name! I like to think of Boxerwood as a child's first forest. The Play Trail lures young children into the woods, where they quickly make friends with nature. And it's a safe place--there's a perimeter fence--so parents are more willing to let their kids run and play freely, the way they remember playing when they were small.

I like the way Bonnie frames the Boxerwood Center, the way she describes it makes me want to travel across the country to visit!

"We live in a particularly beautiful part of Virginia, flanked by ridges and mountains on the east and west, with lots of wonderful trails. I think Boxerwood helps give young families in our community the confidence to get out and explore more of the natural world we're so lucky to have surrounding us. That sense of adventure starts on the play trail and along other paths at Boxerwood. And it's not just families who experience nature here. All the area preschools and elementary schools send their classes every year--some grades for multiple visits in a year--to us for environmental education programming. We literally watch kids grow up in our woods."

They have put together a nice short video that shows the play trail in action. I love the quote about sticks, "The stick has just been inducted to the toy hall of fame." What an amazing honor for a lowly stick! :)   Toy Hall of Fame 

Wetland boardwalks on site offer a chance to kids to explore wild places.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Early Head Start Playground Breaks Ground at Clackamas Community College

After a few months of intensive design, the children at the Clackamas Community College's Early Head Start are starting to see their playground take shape.  Little hands grasping the chain link construction fence and eyes set on the excavator, they wait patiently as the sea of bark chips is replaced with a natural area for creative play.

Construction manager Stephanie Morgan from GR Morgan Construction placed these signs on the construction fencing so the kids would know what type of equipment was being used.

The Clackamas County Children’s Commission (CCCC) is a non-profit organization that serves children in Clackamas County. Their Early Head Start play space was in need of upgrades. The equipment was out dated and not meeting the physical needs of the young children.

GreenWorks worked with CCCC to develop a plan that fit within their limited space, met development requirements of younger children and offered an alternative play experience from traditional playground equipment. The nature based playground design includes an embankment slide, sand play area, trike loop, potting shed play house, lush planting and timber climbers. GreenWorks helped the client re-invision how to use the existing covered space for additional all season play, how to incorporate appropriate storage, and how play surfacing could extend social areas for music, arts, and classroom activities.
This is one of the site options created by GreenWorks 

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