Thursday, June 23, 2011

Girl Scouts Bring the Nature to 'Nature Play'

Silver Falls State Park is home to hundreds of acres of native forest and dozens of beautiful waterfalls. It will also be the future home of a Natural Play Area. The transformation of this animal-themed discovery area moved further last weekend when three local Girl Scouts Abby, Carling, and Kat built bird and bat houses to be integrated into the site.  Girl Scouts from Troop #1047 were rewarded for their work, earning the highest award for Junior Girl Scouts, the Bronze Award.

Girl Scout Troop #1047 Assembing the Bird Boxes

The girls built a variety of boxes for the site – a Screech Owl Box, Small Bird House, and Bat House all of which were pre-drilled with screw holes and mounted directly to trees in the play area. The bird boxes will attract local native birds into the bird themed play area where park visitors young and old explore human sized bird houses and hopefully catch a glimpse of native birds.

Installation of the Bat House

Last Month’s bird house construction comes after the park broke ground last fall, to build 5 animal themed play areas that get children outside and connected with nature.  The play area is being built primarily by parks staff and volunteers like the Girl Scouts.  The Play Area will continue adding on play features this summer and aims to be open to the public by the fall. Below is a concept plan of the future bird adventure area.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Builder Boards

I use to love Lincoln Logs, Lego's, and other construction sets when I was a kid. I recently ran into Builder Boards and fell in love all over again. I have specified these life size 'Lincoln Logs' for a early childhood education center and I can't wait to see what they build. The loose building pieces are built to last outdoors and survive rough treatment by kids. These pieces will give kids the chance to build creatively, create endless different play spaces, learn about wood/ joints/ construction and have fun while doing it.

The Builder Boards website has a bunch of great information and background. Jack McKee is located in Bellingham Washington so for those of us in the Northwest it is a locally hand made product! Or Jack has written a book with directions on buiding your own Builder Boards. Below are a few of my favorite quotes from Jack's experience using the Builder Boards with kids.

"I took the playhouse to class and, made a mistake a more experienced teacher wouldn’t have, by asking, “who wants to help build a playhouse?” Naturally enough, everyone did. Chaos ensued. Kids bumped into each other, walked on boards and no one could see which board to put on next. I discovered eight preschoolers were too many for one playhouse. But once we got down to three or so they were able to work together and plan their creation."

"Using their imaginations, children hardly ever built the standard playhouse, instead building a house with two doors, and windows everywhere and a house with no doors or windows at all. Once they built a house with a tunnel entrance and a flat roof. After that came caves, castles, forts, towers, a reptile museum and a hot dog stand. The idea of building a playhouse gave way to the idea of building from a child’s imagination."

Follow this link for a series of photos of a boy and his dad building their own builder boards and building a play house.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

“This whole entire thing is real!”

Blue Lake Park a Metro Park located in Fairview Oregon just opened a new natural play area. The construction used mostly wood found on site to create the play areas many features.

Early opinions are in!

“This is fun!”
“I love sand.”
“Be careful.”
“This is scary.” (while laughing)
“This is awesome!”
“This whole entire thing is real!”

The most popular components include:

- The sand pit
- Moving around the loose parts, building forts
- Trying out the balancing logs
- Even parents have been seen trying out the play areas features

This play area was designed and built under the watchful eye of a few dedicated Metro employees. I think the choice of components and materials is great. Metro is working on developing a maintenance policy for the natural wood components that includes weekly, monthly, and annual inspections. I think the maintenance end of natural play will be an important discussion point as their popularity increases. Maintenance folks like to have a manual, a number to call for extra parts and a set inspection list. Last time I checked a log did not come with any of these features.

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