Monday, April 30, 2012

Jungle Playgrounds

Wow! These are amazing play spaces! I love the simple materials, variety of spaces and challenge they offer. Both of these 'jungle play' spaces are outside the US. Maybe one day we could get one for Oregon kids!

This film says it was made in 1987 and the jungle playground  from the model is built and in daily use. (Soon with english subtitles)

I have a few worries about this type of play in our litigous American society. The first is about the fall zones or "use zones". These films show a lot of trees being used as supports for the ropes and trees have roots. Not so great to fall on. The second is the ropes. They look like they are just tied on to posts and trees. Hopefully someone is keeping a close eye on them to inspect for slipping, rot, and loose knots.

Besides a few initial worries, I think these play areas are fantastic. Watching the kids jump from one to the other, swing and jump to another piece or letting go while upside down, they are developing great motor skills and look to be having a great time doing it. Another wonderful benefit is the csot of these play areas has to be more managable for a school, small  community center or neighborhood.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Nature Play Completed at Pathfinder Academy

Anyone who has tried to build a natural play area from the ground up, with a low budget, but a lot of heart can count another win for their team this spring. I originally posted about the Pathfinder Academy last spring as I helped them develop a concept plan for their play area. This spring the play area is done and getting lots of use!

Their courtyard play areas is fantastic. Surrounded on three sides by walls with large windows this play courtyard will be a central piece in the Pathfinder Academy setting and the surrounding community. The change in topography offered opportunities for climbing and sliding between a top terrace and bottom area.

The water feature is beautiful and a great idea for such a small play area. Kids can touch the water but are limited in how wet and muddy they can get. Rain barrels demonstrate how water can be taken from the large surrounding roofs and reused for the water feature and gardens.

Most projects have a few dedicated people that put in the time and effort to make them happen. Beyond school staff this project had Daryl Newmark a community volunteer who kept everyone moving forward and excited about the project and Scott Calvin of Able Irrigation who offered the installation expertice needed to get the project built.

The Pathfinder Academy successfully helps teen and young parents (up to age 21) who have dropped out of high school to re-enter school and earn their GED. The classrooms is often filled with young adult students and their young children. This play area gives both generations a chance to interact, engage in creative play and grow together. The students helped pick elements and decide on areas where their children would play. Overall, it is a very successful project.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Outdoor Play Make Us Healthier and Nicer!

In my mind nature play and getting kids outdoors fits into this larger quest to create a healthier, more conscientious next generation. A big part of the puzzle is actually providing natural areas for people to explore and relax in that are close to their home, safe and fun. We have all the hard working folks in Parks and Recreation to thank for most of the parks and open space we have to enjoy. The following Webinar is an amazing collection of presenters in park and recreation talking about how they have improved and quantified health benefits of nature. This is a tough thing to do, it stands to be an interesting talk.Following that are a few of my favorite health and play resources.

The NRPA Children in Nature Committee Presents: A Webinar

Doctors in Parks: A Prescription for Health
A free webinar for parks and health professionals,
and anyone supporting physical activity for health.

Thursday, April 19th, 2012, 2:00pm – 3:15pm EDT

Soil Contact Acts an an Antidepressant

I love working in the garden, so this just makes sense to me. But, now the research has proved it!  

Bacteria found in soil called Mycobacterium has been found to effect the same neurons as Prozac, offering people a natural lift in mood.  This is just one more great reason to get out in the garden and grow your own foods. Not a green thumb? Just spending time in areas with rich soil will allow you to breath in these great benefits.

Nature Makes You Nicer!

Increased time in nature makes one nicer, enhances social interactions and more. Someone actually did this study and I think that is fabulous. Get outside people!

Study: Weinstein, N., Przybylski, A. K., & Ryan, R. M. (2009). “Can nature make us more caring? Effects of immersion in nature on intrinsic aspirations and generosity.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 1315-1329.

The Trust for Public Land: Health Benefits of Parks

The Trust for Public Land has also done some interesting work on the health benefits of parks. You can download their white paper here.

Does anyone out there know of other resources that have quantified the health benefits of parks? I would especially be interested in the health benefits of play. 

I hope you are Healthy, Happy and Enjoying your Parks.
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