Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Evergreen Brick Works programs help combat Toronto kids’ ‘nature deficit’ - thestar.com

Evergreen Brick Works programs help combat Toronto kids’ ‘nature deficit’ - thestar.com

"How many city kids do you know who’ve caught a frog? Seen a deer bed? Identified, picked and tasted edible flowers?" The short answer is bugger all.

Unless it's in a picture on the internet or presented as a new flavour for Roll-ups then it doesn't exist for most of them. I'd love to see more of these activities available to city children. When I was young (aeons ago) we got to go to Sport and Recreation camps that included the mandatory bivouac.

As far as I know these camps are still available for children (ages 7-17) however they have to want to be there/be allowed to go. Between Gymboree/toddler language lessons/ toddler Ipad classes and the ever present (but unsubstantiated) "Stranger Danger" most city based children will never know this aspect of life. Sad, but true.  

The full article can be read from the link above 

How many city kids do you know who’ve caught a frog? Seen a deer bed? Identified, picked and tasted edible flowers?

Probably not many — if any at all. And as children grow up increasingly indoors, the lack of time spent outside has even been given its own name — “nature deficit disorder.”

Connecting kids with the environment is something Evergreen Brick Works encourages — offering space for them to explore and to take part in programs and summer camps that take advantage of the space it occupies along the Don River valley.

“The design of Chimney Court (the main children’s area) took all of that research and other types of research into consideration,” says Heidi Campbell, landscape design consultant who works at Evergreen, referring to the work of Richard Louv on the nature deficit and its effects on children.

In the nice weather, ample spaces with natural shading are available along with winding trails that lead to frog bogs, deer beds, plenty of trees, and gardens.

Heading into the forest gives kids a lesson in natural air-conditioning.

“It’s 10 degrees cooler — that’s a fact,” Campbell says. “Tree canopies, specifically trees in groupings” make it cooler. “We get the kids to measure that, too.”

In the winter, “we extend the time by cooking outdoors, providing heat through fires. It’s important to have a fire pit — kids can come out and build a snow sculpture . . .

“Children are pretty resilient out there, but the added element of sitting around a campfire, drying their mittens on sticks, is a whole extension of the outdoor experience.”

Because of the lands around the Brick Works, kids do a lot of frog hunting, searching for turtles and snakes. “It’s all catch and release,” Campbell says.

“They do a natural exploration out there on the trails, then bring their stories back to Chimney Court,” which is an exploratory area for kids, centred around a 60-metre-high chimney that was used in the old brick-making factory. It is used for summer camps but is open to families on weekends.

The area also boasts edible plants, temporary shelters, and a Turkish yurt, donated by Occupy Toronto activists who used the felt hut during their downtown protest last year.

Campbell has helped several schools in the city create natural playgrounds, starting small with food gardens and smaller projects. “The other thing we’re hoping will really pick up momentum in the next five years is nature study areas,” she says.

“This is an important concept . . . we like to encourage schools, if they have the space, to stop mowing. The kids watch what happens; they see things growing, what kind of life comes to the area.”

At least 15 Toronto District School Board schools are taking part.

An Evergreen poll found that more than 80 per cent of Canadians are concerned about young people’s lack of outdoor exploration and play.

Let the kids go wild | Cincinnati.com | cincinnati.com

Let the kids go wild | Cincinnati.com | cincinnati.com

Interesting design. They also discuss risk in play, which has been all but annihilated by fear of potential litigation. An interesting addendum to this article may be Children’s Risky Play from an Evolutionary Perspective: The Anti-Phobic Effects of Thrilling Experiences.

The full article can be read from the link above  

One of the healthiest places for a child to play – the great outdoors – is also a place where parents fear to leave their kids alone.

“Research has come out showing the significant benefits for healthy child development in unstructured play in nature, which has taken place for children for millennia,” said Bill Hopple, executive director of Cincinnati Nature Center. “But there is a sense today among parents that it’s unsafe for children to play unsupervised.”

That’s why the Cincinnati Nature Playscape Initiative, of which Hopple is a leader, is trying to graft a slice of wild and unpredictable wilderness on a safe, secure playground near you. There, children can messily explore streams, rocks, wild grasses, bushes, branches and hilly mounds – even if the rugged, varied topography has to be newly constructed atop an otherwise plain landscape.

They allow for risk in play, but don’t let the stress on freedom fool you. “I tell everybody the irony is that probably the most important feature is the parameter fence that provides a sense of safety,” Hopple said.

The area’s second professionally designed playscape, at University of Cincinnati’s Arlitt Child and Family Research and Education Center, opens at 10:30 a.m., Wednesday. It will primarily be for children ages 3 to 5 and will be open to those who attend Arlitt, as well as the community-at-large.

The first such place, for a broader age range at Cincinnati Nature Center just outside Milford, opened a year ago. And Hopple says two more are under discussion: in Madeira and at the renovated Lower School at Indian Hill’s Cincinnati Country Day School. “We want to facilitate creation of these playscapes in areas all over the city,” Hopple said.
Money for playgrounds got boost from grant

The Arlitt playscape was a $401,000 project, done with money from various UC and private sources. But the seed money for both it and the Nature Center’s come from a $150,000 grant from the Harriet Williams Downey Fund at the Greater Cincinnati Foundation. Cincinnati landscape architect Rachel Robinson worked on the project with Robin Moore, director of North Carolina State University’s Natural Learning Initiative, and the University of Cincinnati’s Architect’s Office.

Because of its location, and the fact that it is for very young children, the new wheelchair-accessible playscape at UC’s Arlitt Center is much smaller than Cincinnati Nature Center’s – 10,000 square feet to 1.6 acres. But it nevertheless will have some unusual features, such as a tree house, a large pipe that serves as a tunnel, and an observation deck – just outside the fenced-in area -- for UC researchers to watch the children play.

Victoria Carr, Arlitt Center’s director, explained that it’s critical for positive development in young children to develop their sensory experiences in an outdoor environment, and a nature playscape can do that better than a traditional playground. “They need to touch leaves, dig dirt, walk up and climb on rocks,” she said.

“This is a social justice issue,” she said. “We have a lot of children here who are urban dwellers. Their access to green space and nature is far more limited than families with money to join the Nature Center, for instance, or who live in the suburbs.”

Yes, but is this playscape better than a Cincinnati park such as Burnet Woods or Mount Airy Forest, both of which are reasonably near to UC? “We’ve tried to design a more compact and diverse space than they would have in the woods,” Carr said. “But the bigger thing is it’s fenced, so parents feel their young children are safer. ... You don’t have that in the parks.”

The Cincinnati Nature Playscape Initiative works closely with Leave No Child Inside, a local collaboration co-chaired by Betsy Townsend (see sidebar). Both have their origins in a 2005 visit to Cincinnati by Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.” Both groups also are part of a larger, national movement.

Leave No Child Inside’s Townsend said there are other, more grass-roots “natural playgrounds” sprouting in this area, too. She estimates some 40 such playgrounds or school gardens have been started in the six years of her group’s existence. “They are not as elaborate as those two (playscapes),” she said. “Those are high-end, professionally designed. But sometimes all it takes is a pile of dirt.”

Children In Nature - Parents Press - July 2012 - Alameda, CA

Children In Nature - Parents Press - July 2012 - Alameda, CA

Great article. In culture were it is implied that that we should live fast lives, eat fast food and seek fast connections....slow is good. I particularly like their inclusion of the UK’s National Trusts list of 50 Things to Do Before You’re 11¾. 

The full article can be read from the link above

  Embrace Nature Now — and Slow Down

     Growing up in rural Connecticut, I spent almost every free moment outside. We lived at the end of a dirt road that led to a marshy, spring-fed pond, where my brother and I caught frogs and turtles in the summer, ice skated in the winter and witnessed the migrations of geese and ducks each spring and fall. I spent hours, alone, constructing tiny villages out of twigs at the base of the oak trees in our front yard and many more hours, with friends, playing Army, Cops and Robbers and Swiss Family Robinson in the forest behind our house.

As a teenager, I hiked through the wildlife refuge that started just a quarter-mile from our home — and on those hikes I learned the thrill that can come from watching a sunset over a New England ridge, spotting a Great Horned Owl in a branch, spying on beavers building a dam or bushwhacking around a pond.

Such is not the life of most American children these days. Hemmed in by homework and sports schedules, few children have the time to head off into the woods for an evening jaunt or a game of tag — if there even are woods nearby. And burdened with worries about molesters and abductors, few parents are willing to let their kids escape to a local playground on their own. This is an unprecedented shift in human childhood.
“For eons, children have spent most of their formative years in nature,” Richard Louv explains in his seminal book, Last Child in the Woods, published in 2005. “But within the space of a few decades, the way children understand and experience nature has changed radically.”

The consequences — for both individuals and our planet — could be dire, some observers fear. “We’re seeing behavioral and health problems in children who aren’t outside enough,” says Wendy Wheeler, co-founder of Children in Nature Bay Area. “But there are even bigger issues, too. Our environment is going to hell in a hand basket. If children aren’t learning about nature, they may not care enough to be environmental stewards.”

Why Nature Matters A hundred years ago, John Muir wrote that “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”
Today, numerous studies are documenting some very real benefits to being in nature — including improving mood, enhancing concentration, boosting creativity, inspiring a love of nature, promoting social bonds, strengthening memory, reducing stress, quickening recovery time from illness, and providing solace.
Less easy to quantify — but no less important — many believe that having time to roam freely in nature allows children to wander, invent, explore, create, reflect, dream and observe and gives them “time and space to hear inner voices,” Louv writes. In fact, environmental psychologist Louise Chawla, a professor in the College of Architecture and Planning at University of Colorado and co-editor of Children, Youth and Environments, has found that adults don’t report having transcendent experiences in childhood unless they spent time
in nature as children.
“The lack of unstructured play, of free time, is depriving children of the chance to discover, wonder and construct narratives over time,” says Julie Nicholson, who leads the Center for Play Research at Mills College and co-founded the Bay Area Coalition for Play. “Children aren’t able to develop deep concepts, rich social skills and problem-solving techniques. Twenty minutes of park time is not the same as the sustained open play that we used to have, and now even business people are realizing this has a big effect on peoples’ abilities to work in teams, think outside the box, come up with creative solutions.”

Barriers to Nature Unfortunately, fewer and fewer children are reaping these benefits these days because of a number of hurdles:
Time. Between homework, organized sports and other “enrichment” activities, most children’s afternoons and weekends are every bit as scheduled as an adult’s. That means that time for wandering through a meadow, building a fort in the woods or following a brook to its source is in very short supply.
Fear. In many communities (even middle class suburbs) it’s no longer considered wise to let children roam about the local neighborhood — either alone or with a group — because of concerns about abduction, molestation and traffic accidents.
Access: Few urban areas have parks with running water, trees that kids are allowed to climb or places to build forts. Many suburban areas have rules about what kids are allowed to do (and not do), including where they can ride bikes, build forts and play ball.
Technology. In the absence of being able to spend time outside, more and more children are succumbing to the potentially addictive lure of “screen time” — provided by TV shows, DVDs, video games, computers, smart phones and tablets. Many children, in fact, end up watching nature more via digitized media than direct experience. Sadly, the most recent estimates by the Kaiser Family Foundation put average weekly screen time for kids aged 8 to 18 at 53 hours a week. Only 6 percent of children aged 9 to 13 play outside alone in a typical week; the average amount of time that children spend in unstructured time in nature is about 30 minutes per week.
Science curricula. An emphasis on textbooks and testing in K–12 education — and an emphasis on theory over application in higher education — has led to a generation of students who aren’t as engaged in environmental science and natural history as they could be.

Nature Deficit Disorder In the course of writing his book, Louv coined the term “nature deficit disorder” to describe what he sees as multiple maladies stemming from the lack of both free time and exposure to the outdoors. The disorder isn’t listed in any standard medical references (such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) but the symptoms of it, in Louv’s mind, include depression, obesity, behavioral problems, academic issues, lack of creativity, stress and a diminished sense of wonder and awe. Some researchers even believe that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, may be because of the fact that children — and especially boys — no longer have constructive outlets for their physical energy, such as working on farms or being able to play in the woods.

Getting Children Outside Healing this broken bond between children and nature, Louv and other nature advocates say, is crucial for our mental, physical, spiritual and environmental health. But how to do that? They see a number of pathways, including:
Encouraging families to get out into nature more. By providing safe places for families to roam — as well as, in some cases, adult guides to show them how to do it — children will not only grow to appreciate nature but spend quality time with their families.

Changing urban planning Sustainable, healthy communities need to incorporate not just green spaces (like parks) but “islands” of wild places, too, where children (and adults) can have adventures.

New laws. In Last Child in the Woods, Louv calls for a nationwide review of the laws that govern private land and recreation, “with the goal of protecting both the child’s safety and the child’s right to play in natural settings.” Fragile ecosystems could still be protected — but children could still have streams to wade in, dunes to tumble on and trees to climb.

Renovating schoolyards. Schoolyards should be spruced up to provide more green spaces and gardens that children can see and play and work in.

It’s not an impossible goal. Nationwide dozens of programs aimed at getting children out into nature — from Tots on the Tundra in Kotzebue, Alaska, to Sandy Feet in Naples, Fla., — now exist. Some are just loose groups of parents; some are sponsored by state governments; others are funded by nonprofits, including the National Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club. The Children & Nature Network, which was co-founded by Louv and aims to link and provide resources for researchers, individuals, educators and organizations working to get children outdoors more was founded in 2006.

Today, the website (www.childrenandnature.org) provides a wealth of resources on the subject, including contact information for dozens of clubs and campaigns around the country; kits for starting “Family Nature Clubs” that support parents in getting outside more; information on the Natural Leaders Legacy Initiative that aims to train, activate and support kids with leadership potential; and tips on planning “Let’s G.O.!” (for Get Outside) events, including hikes, service days and celebrations.
The efforts seem to be working. According to a report released in May of this year by C&NN, the number of children “connecting to the outdoors” has increased three fold since 2009 (from 1 million to 3 million). The organization now boasts 107 regional campaigns and129 Nature Clubs for families; between January and May 2012, more than 600 Let’s G.O.! events took place — more than took place in all of 2011.
Moreover, notes Nicholson, the crisis around play itself has reached a “tipping point.” Communities are “starting to wake up,” she says. “Researchers have known for a long time that this constant pressure to achieve is not good for children. Now society is waking up.”

The Local Movement
Here in the Bay Area, the Children in Nature Collaborative (www.cincbayarea.org) formed in 2007 in the wake of the first-ever conference in the area on the topic of getting children outside. That conference drew 800 people; the resulting collaborative aims to educate people about the restorative benefits of nature on children; promote more unstructured time; and the need to provide more access to nature for children and families.
“We knew a national movement was starting because Richard Louv had just published Last Child in
Nature,” says Mary Roscoe, who helped found CINC. “It was an exciting time, because environmentalists and teachers felt validated for their work and beliefs. They felt that spark a sense of urgency. It seemed really important to accelerate the work being done across the country.”
Partners in the collaborative today include Bay Area Wilderness Training, Coastal Habitat Education and Environmental Restoration, the Environmental Studies Institute of Santa Clara University, Full Circle Farm, REI, Youth Science Institute and the Waldorf School of the Penninsula — and their urgency has not diminished over the last five years. “It is still building,” Roscoe says. “It’s a little like climate change. The health problems, the behavioral problems, are all tips of the iceberg, and the situation is going to get worse. We need to change how we think about ourselves and who and how we are in the world.”
In 2012, a small band of parents also formed a Children in Nature Bay Area club to promote more connections between nature and children. “At this point, we are providing recommendations for outdoor play and trying to set up a nature circle or monthly hiking group,” Wheeler says. “Long term, we want to provide a monthly activity on the same day each month. It would be something at which parents could either drop off their kids (with another parent) or stay for the outdoor fun.” One of the group’s biggest projects is the Children in Nature Bay Area wiki page (http://childreninnaturebayarea.wikia.com/wiki/Children_in_Nature_Bay_Area_Wiki), which aims to provide a “map” of all the Bay Area organizations that provide children with opportunities to be in nature. As with all wiki pages (which are websites that users can add to or modify), this one will grow and change, but it currently includes special events, activity ideas, summer camps, funding sources, teacher training opportunities, on-going outdoor programs for kids, and dozens of listings of books and articles from academic journals and the mainstream press on the topic of children, nature and play. “Until we started the wiki page, a consolidated list of all the organizations providing nature activities for kids was not available,” Wheeler says.

Nature in a Crack
Of course, not all children are able to get out to Yosemite, the Appalachian Trail or even the East Bay Regional Park District. That doesn’t mean they can’t reap the benefits of time spent outside, however. “Initially in the movement, we talked about getting children in the woods,” Roscoe explains. “We thought that getting kids outside, into the wilderness, was most important. We still think that’s important, but exposing them to the nearest nature is also important. We want to help them connect with nature where they live.
“Nature can be very small,” she adds. “It can be a crack in the sidewalk, a simple weed. It doesn’t have to be a huge expanse.”
Working with communities to renovate their own parks and playgrounds is also key to establishing better connections with the environment, advocates say. One notable example: More than 3,400 children live in the neighborhood of Elm Playlot, which lies in the heart of Richmond’s notorious Iron Triangle. Yet few children played there, because it had become a popular hangout for drug dealers, gang members and dog fighters. A local community group, “Pogo Park,” is currently planning a neighborhood park that will attract children for the site. Plans include having a “park host” to monitor the park and organize activities for the children, having healthy snacks and using the park as a hub for helping families connect to other services in the community — including a book mobile, mobile health vans and a farmers market.

A nascent movement to create what Menlo Park entrepreneur Michael Lanza calls “playborhoods” may also be key to getting children outside more. In his book by the same name (published in April of this year), Lanza describes how communities across the country are creating safe places for children to play and explore in their own neighborhoods — including practical tips on how to transform our own neighborhoods.
The efforts may seem disparate, but advocates say the movement is gaining momentum, in part because it resonates so deeply with today’s parents, many of whom, like me, grew up as “free-range” children in neighborhoods filled with trees, brooks and adventures. “The urgency right now for me personally is the fact that when my children were small, the back door was constantly flapping with the kids going in and out of our house here in Mountain View and playing our yard,” Roscoe says. “Now if I look outside up or down my street, there aren’t any children on the street at all.”
Slow Down
The Slow Family Movement
     A number of parents who are working to find more time for their children in nature are also becoming advocates of the Slow Family Movement. Just as the Slow Food Movement promotes a return to cooking from scratch, the Slow Family Movement advocates for creating less structured, less stressful, less scheduled and less splintered family lives. With a goal toward helping families feel more connected to each other — and finding more joy in their daily lives — the Slow Family Movement, also called Slow Family Living, emphasizes imagining what you want your family life to look and feel like 10 or 20 years from now.
Now a national movement, Slow Family Living was founded by Bernadette Noll and Carry Contey, PhD, both mothers in Austin, Texas, who realized, during a workshop on creating family mission statements, that their family lives were highly pressured by the “social pressure to do, do, do,” Noll says, “to sign up for sports, extra-curricular, tutoring and more with the fear that if you didn’t do this, your kid was going to somehow be left behind — academically, socially, physically.” The two set out with a simple goal: “to inspire families to slow down, connect with each other and actually enjoy family life. We want them to slow down long enough to tune into their own desires for their family. To do things because it’s what they want to do not because society fills them with fear. We also want to encourage families to see that the connection they want with their kids 10, 20, 30 years from now can be built now. At home. While the kids are young and while everyone’s under the same roof. And that family life should be joyful, not some arduous process that one is simply meant to endure.

Connected family life doesn’t just happen, she adds. “It is consciously created at home. It can be as simple as making more eye contact when you’re together, or as grand as spending a weekend together on a road trip as a family.”

While a lot of Slow Family advocates have one parent at home or are even homeschooling, Noll insists that even working families can slow down. It’s about making connection in the time you do have. It’s about slowing down long enough to ask yourself, “Is what we’re doing working for us?” “Is it giving us the connection we want?”
Noll recommends more eye contact, more touching and scheduling in “spaciousness” (or downtime) so families can “take the time to enjoy each other.”  “Put family time on the calendar,” she says. “Ponder invitations to events and parties. Will it serve our family? And see how much you have to learn from being together. The things will come and go, but the people are there for your lifetime together. Slow is in the pausing long enough to figure out what you want. Connect is in the everyday — make it a point with eyes, hands, hearts. And joy is in being together and making it all fun.”

50 Things to Do Before You’re 11¾
(From UK’s National Trust)

1. Climb a tree
2. Roll down a really big hill
3. Camp out in the wild
4. Build a den
5. Skim a stone
6. Run around in the rain
7. Fly a kite
8. Catch a fish with a net
9. Eat an apple straight from a tree
10. Play conkers
11. Throw some snow
12. Hunt for treasure on the beach
13. Make a mud pie
14. Dam a stream
15. Go sledding
16. Bury someone in the sand
17. Set up a snail race
18. Balance on a fallen tree
19. Swing on a rope swing
20. Make a mud slide
21. Eat blackberries growing in the wild
22. Take a look inside a tree
23. Visit an island
24. Feel like you’re flying in the wind
25. Make a grass trumpet
26. Hunt for fossils and bones
27. Watch the sun wake up
28. Climb a huge hill
29. Get behind a waterfall
30. Feed a bird from your hand
31. Hunt for bugs
32. Find some frogspawn
33. Catch a butterfly in a net
34. Track wild animals
35. Discover what’s in a pond
36. Call an owl
37. Check out the crazy creatures in a rock pool
38. Bring up a butterfly
39. Catch a crab
40. Go on a nature walk at night
41. Plant it, grow it, eat it
42. Go wild swimming
43. Go rafting
44. Light a fire without matches
45. Find your way with a map and compass
46. Try bouldering
47. Cook on a campfire
48. Try abseiling
49. Find a geocache
50. Canoe down a river

MIKE WEILBACHER: Get out! Saving nature - and our kids - Main Line Times - Main Line Media News

The full article can be read from the link above  

Naturalist Mike Weilbacher lives in Merion Station and directs the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education in Philadelphia. 

“Every child,” wrote groundbreaking botanist Luther Burbank, “should have mud pies, grasshoppers, tadpoles, frogs, mud turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, chestnuts, trees to climb. Brooks to wade, woodchucks, bats, bees, butterflies, various animals to pet, hayfields, pine cones, rocks to roll, snakes, huckleberries and hornets. And any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of education.”

In our education-obsessed culture, where No Child is Left Behind and elite kids play piano and speak three languages by the age of four, just about every American kid is deprived. For in the greatest retreat since the Red Army’s Long March across China, children across the American landscape are vanishing from a critical piece of territory: their own back yards.

And there isn’t a kid on the planet who knows what a huckleberry is, other than maybe a character in a Mark Twain book.

This phenomenon is increasingly well studied: kids spend only 20 percent of the time outside their parents once did, says one; the territory they roam is only 11 percent of the land their parents played in, says another. In this brave new world of Facebook and YouTube, Twitter and Google, kids are increasingly connected, spending more than seven hours a day on entertainment media, some 53 hours per week – more than a full-time job! A kindergartener starts school with – get this – some 5,000 hours of TV under his belt, the time it takes to earn a college degree.

And we adults are colluding in this retreat. No Child Left Behind has chained kids to their desks, number-2 pencils glued to their hands, and kids even miss recess for more practice time. If a kid is outside playing sports, it’s not a pickup game in the sandlot, but a league organized by overzealous parents that carpool kids endlessly from one game to the next.

Meanwhile, children’s health is in a serious and drastic decline: asthma, attention deficit disorder, obesity and diabetes are all skyrocketing. Kids who watch too much TV don’t physically move, change the working of their brains, and even eat more poorly than other children – scientists have discovered an inverse relationship between TV use and the amount of vegetables in one’s diet. This next generation might not live as long as its parents.

At the same time, an exploding series of studies indicates that kids are physically and mentally healthier if they spend time outdoors and in nature. They calm down when surrounded by green, which seems to ameliorate their ADD. And free play outside lets children develop social skills they can’t get from tube-watching (or from playing sports under adult supervision), and their skills are more age-appropriate. They are more creative, too.

Children who play in nature have better concentration, too, and better hand-eye coordination. Since separate studies indicate a correlation between the ability to concentrate and success in standardized tests, that explains the kicker: numerous studies now indicate that learning through nature-based programs helps kids score higher on standardized tests. Want your kid to go to Harvard? Have her study outdoors. Or just kick her outside to play.

Actually, that’s not so silly; check this out: one study of 101 Michigan high schools noted that the presence of larger windows with more views of trees inspired students to have higher test scores and higher graduation rates. And a greater percentage of the students planned on going to college. Simply seeing a tree outside the window inspires students to want to be better. And in high schools with at-risk students, exposure to nature-based programs led to fewer suspensions, decreased absenteeism, and fewer disciplinary incidents.

But change is (maybe too gently) blowing in the wind. ...... Places as disparate as nature centers and urban parks are unveiling natural playscapes, areas where kids can linger and climb rocks, play with sticks, push sand and gravel around, get muddy – do lots of delicious nothing. Nature preschools are becoming popular, too; places where toddlers spend quality time outdoors. Even middle schools are developing nature-based curricula where the bulk of the student’s school day is given to studying the environment to integrate math, language and social studies into the real world – like Radnor’s Watershed and Welsh Valley’s Waterbound.

And some 1,600 groups representing 50 million people have organized into a No Child Left Inside coalition, a spin on the Bush-era name for his education bill, lobbying Obama for statewide environmental-literacy plans that include children spending quality time outdoors. If the Obama bill ever gets to Congress, it requires states seeking federal funding to create an environmental-literacy plan – a great carrot.

But it’s a long climb, for culture is the very air our children breathe, and culture conspires to convince kids that everything important can be found in that little box. We’ve seduced children indoors with all that diversity and color in technology, inventing new devices seemingly by the minute, even as we drain the world of its biological diversity.

Now childhood itself is an endangered species. If we are going to save either the environment or our children, we have to take a surprisingly simple but very radical first step.

Unplug our kids and kick them outside. To play. And maybe even find huckleberries.

To Your Good Health: ‘Natural healing’ starts with nature - Park Ridge Herald-Advocate

There's an interesting line in this article that suggests, "Humans instinctively know how to help ourselves to natural healing found in greenery, fresh air and water." Instinct may be innate however it is easily trumped by socially enforced routine.The ones that usually start at a tender age and imply work, position, power and acquisition is everything. Nothing is set in stone, not even Maslow's heirachy, any innate instinct can be turned on its head by years of social conditioning, misguided nurture can subjugate innate nature time and time again. 
The full article can be read from the link above   

PARK RIDGE — When most people hear the phrase “natural healing” they think of herbal remedies and ancient therapies. But there’s an even older, simpler source of healing that’s just outside your door: nature itself.

In a recent issue of the AARP bulletin, author Richard Louv quoted developmental psychologist Marti Erickson as saying that nature may be one of the best and most accessible stress-busters. Louv, author of the bestselling 2005 book, Last Child in the Woods, introduced the term, “nature-deficit disorder.” It’s not a medical diagnosis (at least not yet) but a description of the effect on children who spend most of their time immersed in technology rather than in nature.

In his article, Louv notes that “more time in nature — or in home, work or hospital environments enhanced through nature-based design” is linked with “reduction in stress and depression, faster healing time and less need for pain medication.” He cites a 2008 University of Michigan study where subjects’ memory performance and attention spans improved by 20 percent after an hour of interaction with nature; and a 2012 study at the University of Kansas that reported a 50-percent increase in creativity for subjects “steeped in nature” for a few days.

Will biking, hiking or strolling in the park cure major illnesses, mental or physical? No. But it can make a real difference in mood, motivation and physical comfort, overall. In other words, it can make us healthier.

Perhaps the one good thing about the current health-care-affordability crisis is the focus on preventive care. We know chronic stress can be life-threatening, and many of us live under that condition today. We also know that moderate levels of anxiety, depression, aches and pains caused by stress, inactivity and other modern habits can be alleviated by spending time walking, gardening and other low-impact outdoor activities. We know that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) that renders many people miserable during the winter months can be alleviated by use of natural-spectrum sun lamps, but how much better to put on some sunscreen and get moving out in the real thing?

And what about our kids, those who can’t sit still and those who sit around too much? Hanging around outdoors can help the former be a bit more calm and focused and give the latter incentive to move. (Even if they’re strolling with the phone to their ear, they’re moving, right?) With half of all American adults and a third of kids overweight, getting outdoors is probably the easiest way to alleviate that unhealthy condition. In a safe, green city like ours, it’s certainly the cheapest way.

You don’t even have to be on the move to benefit from Nature. It’s not by accident that the more attractive office complexes, universities and public buildings incorporate parks and water features, from ponds to fountains, in their landscapes. Check out the path-encircled Wildwood Nature Center pond on Sibley in Park Ridge, Oakton Community College’s pond or Axehead Lake, and any of the other parks in the area for a fast therapeutic break. Plants in the home can not only provide a calming effect, some, such as the peace lily, can actually clean the air of pollutants that aggravate allergies. Check out the Park Ridge Community Center display of air-cleaning plants.

Humans instinctively know how to help ourselves to natural healing found in greenery, fresh air and water. When we’re upset, we go for a walk around the block or take a bubble bath; remedies free of side effects of what experts call ATOD (alcohol, tobacco and other drugs).

Of course, any health problem, emotional or physical, should be diagnosed and modern medicine is often the solution. But try a little dose of nature at the same time, and see how much better you can feel.

It’s only natural.

— Peter N. Ryan is a Park Ridge-based attorney, Emergency First Aid trainer and chairman of the mayor-appointed Park Ridge Community Health Commission. Mary Wynn Ryan is a Park Ridge-based communications consultant and an elected Park Ridge Park District Commissioner.

Young People Want To Work Outside In An Online Age | Care2 Causes

Young People Want To Work Outside In An Online Age | Care2 Causes

I know the expression has been done to death but it truly warms my heart to hear that not all of the Y generation is so "me" obsessed. Then again if someone offered me unlimited goat cheese, great views and a fantastic community I'd be off like a shot.

The full article can be read from the link above  

This post was originally published by New America Media.

At 7:00 AM Cyrina King often starts her workday taking the temperature of the compost pile. A recent graduate from Bard College, King is working as a summer counselor at Slide Ranch, a Marin-based organization that teaches farm skills and environmental science to children.

The pay may be minimal, but the position comes with perks that staff say far exceed those offered in corporate offices, including tent lodging, unlimited goat cheese, great views and a fantastic community.

Choosing to pursue work outdoors, some young adults today in Northern California are defying expectations of a generation thought to be too obsessed with technology to have interest in the great outdoors.

The average adolescent spends 7.5 hours per day consuming entertainment media, leaving little time for much else. Youth obesity rates are at record highs and attendance levels at US national forests and state parks have been declining for several decades.

But, while addiction to screens keeps many indoors, some young adults are rejecting this trend and are declining to spend their time tuned-in, logged-on or otherwise zoned out.

Employment is one area where young adults’ interest in the outdoors is most visible. For recent graduates, choosing a career is often the most important decision they have ever made and some are rejecting the notion that a college degree is a license to sit in front of a computer 8 hours per day.

King said that she believes this is characteristic of her generation’s unique position as the last to grow up before the proliferation of portable electronic devises. Personally witnessing the rise of electronic media, she said she feels she has a responsibility to sustain interest in the outdoors.

... Various staff members at Slide Ranch say that working in an office setting simply does not appeal to them. King said that she has instead found learning farm skills empowering. Other opportunities for recent graduates, such as working for a large established company, “are really limited and really fake,” she said.

Maya Havusha, who works with King, said that spending long hours indoors conducting research for her thesis convinced her to pursue a career that involved working outdoors....Her job at the ranch involves working with children, milking goats and attending to a variety of other farm chores.

Havusha said she was also motivated to work at the ranch because she feels responsible for teaching future generations about the environment. She said that teaching is one way she feels that she can make a real impact.....“Our kids probably won’t know anyone who doesn’t know what the Internet is,” she said. What we’re teaching the kids is just the bare minimum. “It’s basic level stuff, this is a goat, not a cow.”

At UC Berkeley, the student career office has seen a growing interest in the environmental field in recent years. The career office has begun offering a specialized green career jobs fair, which showcases opportunities in industry, sciences and community non-profits, including opportunities that would bring students outdoors.

“I think there are a number of students for whom the idea of working 9-5 at a desk sounds very limiting and a little dreary,” said Suzanne Helbig, Assistant Director of the Career Center at UC Berkeley in a phone interview. “It’s not something they’re used to. Especially being college students, they’re out walking about from building to building, from topic to topic so a lot of this desire comes from wanting variety in their jobs,” she said.

While there are enticing opportunities for those seeking work outdoors, there is also stiff competition.
The East Bay Regional Park District, which offers paid student internships in natural sciences and environmental education, receives typically 200 applications for just 10-12 internship positions. Among applicants, about 60 percent indicate that they would prefer a position outdoors as opposed to a desk job.

“People have grown up going to our parks and to hear that there is actually a paid internship available at the park district is almost unbelievable,” said Sonja Stanchina, a human resources officer for the agency, characterizing the response of applicants.

Positions for the National Park Service’s approximately 10,000 seasonal positions are often competitive as well but the perks have no comparison in office work, said Park Service Spokesperson Kathy Kupper. “Park rangers get paid in sunsets,” she said, adding that staff at the park service have the opportunity to be “working in places where people travel to and spend money just to go on vacation.”

There has been about a 10 percent increase in applications for seasonal positions at the park service, according to Kupper. Many popular outdoor careers, such as botanists, foresters, landscape architects? and wildlife biologists have higher than average pay but are projected to grow at slightly slower rates than the overall workforce, according the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But, the summer already half over, in early-July King and Havusha were searching again for jobs.
For this, they must return inside to their computers. It felt ironic, Havusha said. “I was emailing [potential employers] saying that I want to spend my life with kids outside.”

For others, working at a park for the summer is just a way to soak in some sunlight before beginning an indoor career, which some believe to be an inevitable reality. Kupper said that she finds about 20 percent of seasonal employees intend to later pursue careers in completely unrelated fields, such as in law or accounting. These employees figure “I’ve got a couple summers to live the dream, to work with my hands,” she said.

Jobs outdoors offer these individuals “an opportunity to work outside before they’re looking at it from the inside out,” she said.

Dr. Rebecca Palacios: Science for the Summer! Part Two: Explorations

Dr. Rebecca Palacios: Science for the Summer! Part Two: Explorations

In the prior post Setting the Stage Dr. Palacios talked about simple activities parents can use to promote  and determine their children's interest in nature, here she discusses a process for observing insects. The simple process could be easily replicated in any centre or home. Frogs, ants, butterflies, crickets...the list is endless and free.
The full article can be read from the link above  

....My first suggestion was to find out about your child's interests and set up an experience or exploration with that in mind. I asked: "Is it bugs, bubbles? How about shadows and light, or sound and vibrations? Perhaps it is things that move or things that grow?"

Here are some suggestions on setting up exploration zone with those themes.

Insects - As with anything, safety comes first, so when dealing with insects and young children, it is important to have an adult present at all times to keep the youngster safe.

Activities - Set up a small area in your home for insect observing. You'll need a jar with holes in the top so that your child can observe the insects for a day or two before releasing them.

Where do you get the bugs? Dollar stores sell nets and containers for observing insects, and some pet stores sell crickets that you can purchase fairly inexpensively to observe and then release. You can also purchase an ant farm, which usually comes with a coupon to populate the farm.

I have also captured ants from my backyard and placed them in my ant farm. I released them after about two weeks, but in the meantime they dug complex and fascinating pattern tunnels in the perlite sand.

You can try to capture a butterfly with a net in your backyard as well. And sometimes just lying on the grass on a blanket will produce insect finds deep in the grass.

If you don't have a backyard, you can go to a park or take a nature walk and look for some insects.


• What are some different kinds of insects?
• How are insects the same? How are they different?
• What colors are insects?
• What do insects need to live?

Dr. Rebecca Palacios: Science for the Summer! Part One: Setting the Stage

Dr. Rebecca Palacios: Science for the Summer! Part One: Setting the Stage

I've posted a piece by Dr. Palacios before on Learning through waterplay. Here and in the subsequent posting she talks about simple activities parents can use to promote their children's interest in nature.

The full article can be read from the link above  

Now that summer is here and many children are at home, there are lots of things that families can do to encourage summer learning....

..Learning about science doesn't have to be limited to a museum. Here are some suggestions for creating opportunities right in your home.

First, find out what your child is most interested in. Is it bugs or bubbles? How about shadows and light, or sound and vibrations? Perhaps it is things that move or things that grow? One great way to find out is to visit a library or secondhand book store and find the section that has science books for young readers of your child's age. Lay several of them out on a table and see what your child chooses.

Second, bring some of those books back home and read them together to set the stage.

Third, look around for things in your house, at the market or online that will help your child explore and spur his or her interest in the topic. If the topic is light and shadows, for example, the equipment and materials might include flashlights, mirrors, cardboard, safety scissors and colored cellophane.

Fourth, set up the equipment and materials in a specially designated "exploration zone" for a week or so, depending on your child's interest. With young children, it's always a good idea to allow exploration to occur in a series of relatively brief sessions over a span of time.

Fifth, take some photographs as your child experiments with the materials. Many children at this stage are so immersed with their work that they may not want to communicate or answer questions right then -- but when they see the photos later, they'll have so much to say! If your child does want to talk while exploring, ask questions such as: "Why does it look like that?" "What can you do to make it grow?" or other thought-provoking questions. These will help to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Sixth, once your child has finished with the activity, present the pictures you took and ask what was happening and what he or she found out. This review is important in developing your child's recognition of sequences of events and in development of language skills.

If you can, print the pictures, glue them into a small journal or book and have the child dictate a story (for you to write down) about what was happening in the photo. In this manner, you are showing your child that ideas can be written down, an important literacy concept for young children.....

Monday, 13 August 2012

How digital culture is rewiring our brains

How digital culture is rewiring our brains

I've read a number of other contemporary articles in the same vein and they all appear to make the same points as Baroness Greenfield. The wholesale adoption and introduction of digital technologies to young minds without an understanding of the long term effects is reckless. I like the reference to smoking and cancer. It's an  allusion I frequently use when I'm trying to explain my worst fear scenario for the current "digi-babies".     

The full article can be read from the link above 

"Our brains are superlatively evolved to adapt to our environment: a process known as neuroplasticity. The connections between our brain cells will be shaped, strengthened and refined by our individual experiences. It is this personalisation of the physical brain, driven by unique interactions with the external world, that arguably constitutes the biological basis of each mind, so what will happen to that mind if the external world changes in unprecedented ways, for example, with an all-pervasive digital technology?

A recent survey in the US showed that more than half of teenagers aged 13 to 17 spend more than 30 hours a week, outside school, using computers and other web-connected devices. If their environment is being transformed for so much of the time into a fast-paced and highly interactive two-dimensional space, the brain will adapt, for good or ill. Professor Michael Merzenich, of the University of California, San Francisco, gives a typical neuroscientific perspective.

''There is a massive and unprecedented difference in how [digital natives'] brains are plastically engaged in life compared with those of average individuals from earlier generations and there is little question that the operational characteristics of the average modern brain substantially differ,'' he says.

The implications of such a sweeping ''mind change'' must surely extend into education policy. Most obviously, time spent in front of a screen is time not spent doing other things. Several studies have already documented a link between the recreational use of computers and a decline in school performance. Perhaps most important of all, we need to understand the full impact of cyber culture on the emotional and cognitive profile of the 21st-century mind.

Inevitably, there is a variety of issues. Let us look at just three.

First, social networking. Eye contact is a pivotal and sophisticated component of human interaction, as is subconscious monitoring of body language and, most powerful of all, physical contact, yet none of these experiences is available on social networking sites. It follows that if a young brain with the evolutionary mandate to adapt to the environment is establishing relationships through the medium of a screen, the skills essential for empathy may not be acquired as naturally as in the past.

In line with this prediction, a recent study from Michigan University of 14,000 college students has reported a decline in empathy over the past 30 years, which was particularly marked over the past decade.

Such data does not, of course, prove a causal link but just as with smoking and cancer some 50 years ago, epidemiologists could investigate any possible connection.

The psychologist Sherry Turkle, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has argued in her recent book Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other that the more continuously connected people are in cyberspace, the more isolated they feel.

Second, video games. Neuropsychological studies suggest frequent and continued playing might lead to enhanced recklessness. Data also indicates reduced attention spans and possible addiction. In line with this, significant chemical and even structural changes are being reported in the brains of obsessional gamers.

No single paper is ever likely to be accepted unanimously as conclusive but a survey of 136 reports using 381 independent tests, and conducted on more than 130,000 participants, concluded that video games led to significant increases in desensitisation, physiological arousal, aggression and a decrease in prosocial behaviour.

Third, search engines. Can the internet improve cognitive skills and learning, as has been argued? The problem is that efficient information processing is not synonymous with knowledge or understanding. Even the chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, has said: ''I worry that the level of interrupt, the sort of overwhelming rapidity of information - and, especially, of stressful information - is, in fact, affecting cognition. It is, in fact, affecting deeper thinking. I still believe that sitting down and reading a book is the best way to really learn something.''

Given the plasticity of the brain, it is not surprising adapting to a cyber-environment will also lead to positives - for example, enhanced performance in skills that are continuously rehearsed, such as a mental agility similar to that needed in IQ tests or in visuomotor co-ordination. However, we urgently need a fuller picture.

I would like to suggest a ''mind change'' initiative, involving epidemiological studies that explore the significance of these trends in relation to a screen-based lifestyle, as well as funding for basic brain research into, for example, the neural mechanisms of addiction and attention, the long-term effects of various screen activities on brain structure and function, and the neural processes perhaps underlying deep understanding and creative insight.

The design of innovative software that attempted to offset some of the perceived or agreed deficiencies arising from our digital culture would be enormously valuable. We need more detailed profiles of computer use, along with surveys of the views and insights of parents, teachers and employers. Then, in the light of all this input, this hypothetical initiative would make recommendations. It might well include a root and branch re-examination of education and subsequent training that best equips the citizen of the 21st century to be personally fulfilled and useful to society.

Science and technology is having an unprecedented impact on the length and quality of our lives. We have an extended lifespan and extended leisure time. Like climate change, mind change is complex, unprecedented and controversial. However, the endpoint is not one of just damage limitation. It is, rather, ensuring that we deliver to the next generation an environment that can, for the first time, enable the realisation of each individual's full potential.

Outdoor Play May Protect Children's Eyes From Nearsightedness: Study

Outdoor Play May Protect Children's Eyes From Nearsightedness: Study

So let me get this straight...as well as being good for your physical and mental health, playing outside won't make you go blind?

The full article can be read from the link above 

"Playing outside doesn't just boost the mood and provide an ample dose of vitamin D -- it could also have a protective effect on kids' eyesight.

New research from the University of Bristol suggests a link between playing outdoors and risk of myopia, or nearsightedness. People who are nearsighted are unable to see far-away objects clearly.

Specifically, 8- and 9-year-olds who played a lot outside had a halved risk of being short-sighted at age 15, compared with those who didn't play outside much, researchers found.

The researchers also found that the association persisted despite the amount of actual physical activity the kids got, which means that exercise likely wasn't the reason for the protected eyesight. The researchers also found that it didn't matter how much time the kids spent reading, or if their parents were also short-sighted.

"We're still not sure why being outdoors is good for children's eyes, but given the other health benefits that we know about we would encourage children to spend plenty of time outside, although of course parents will still need to follow advice regarding UV exposure," study researcher Dr. Cathy Williams said in a statement.

The study, published in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, included more than 7,000 children who participated in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. The children received eye exams at age 7, 10, 11, 12 and 15, and researchers also noted their levels of outdoor play at age 9 and their levels of exercise (using an activity monitor) at age 11.

A review of studies from University of Cambridge researchers supports the new finding, showing that with every hour a child spends outdoors, his or her chance of being nearsighted decreases by 2 percent.

Nearsightedness is increasing. According to a 2009 study in the journal Archives of Ophthalmology,nearsightedness prevalence increased by 41.6 percent between 1999 and 2004, while it only increased by 25 percent in the 1970s."

Feeling the Deficit? UK Woodlands Offer a Natural Remedy! | Travel News

Feeling the Deficit? UK Woodlands Offer a Natural Remedy! | Travel News

A long way from C.S.Lewis' "If I say it three times it becomes true". In this case there has to be a book, a movement, a report, an inquiry....before we recognise what's right in front of us. "35,000 children in England are being prescribed anti-depressants" might be a bit of a hint. The article is well worth a read.
The full article can be read from the link above 

"The UK deficit hit the headlines this July with the announcement of a 0.7% shrinkage in the economy. Beyond the economic short-fall however, there appears to be another, more sinister deficit at work; one which is thought to be costing the nation in terms of physical and mental health, compromising well-being whilst causing long-term social and psychological damage to our youngsters; this deficit involves the shrinkage of our children’s natural experiential landscapes.

As play, youth and environment workers at the Heartwood Project, a woodland based initiative close to the city of Bath, it has grown increasingly evident to us over recent years that a paradigm shift has taken place in the experience of childhood in the UK. The National Trust has recently commissioned a research initiative entitled ‘Natural Childhood’ which considers the presence, causes and consequences of ‘Nature -Deficit Disorder’; not a condition which commands a catchy acronym and a prescription from the doctor, rather it is descriptive of a limited interaction with the natural world and calls quite simply for a remedial return to nature. ....... Examining three specific categories: ‘physical health problems including obesity, mental health problems, and children’s growing inability to assess risks to themselves and others’, Moss has affirmed that ‘a generation of children appears to be suffering from a lack of contact with the natural world, with serious consequences both for themselves and for society as a whole.’

The report cites the ‘Good Childhood Inquiry’ which reported in 2009 that children in the UK were experiencing an ‘epidemic of mental illness’ and revealed that around 35,000 children in England are being prescribed anti-depressants. Such disheartening news is increasingly being linked to childhood disconnection with nature. It seems there is no substitute for the teachings of the natural world. Nature’s lessons are direct, multi-sensory, exciting and real, breaking through the often over-structured play and learning experiences of many children and young people today. The freedom to imagine, experiment, create, take appropriate risks, wander, dream and play is inherent to outdoor play. Nature does not offer an instruction manual or limit our sensory stimulation but instead allows the process of discovery to unfold, encouraging balanced personal development and health......"

Please, Don't Touch the Nature - NYTimes.com

A really thought provoking article about our communications with children in respect to their interactions with nature. How much are our own perceptions effected by our own fears and ignorance of nature?

The full article can be read from the link above  

Our environment, we’re told by climate scientists, is fragile. But are children learning that their natural environment — the trees, dirt and grass that surround us — is “fragile,” too? Several educators, after observing years of children’s being taught to “look, but don’t touch,” have argued this summer that many programs and policies designed to protect the natural world are actually preventing a new generation from developing an interest in it. Don’t climb the trees, don’t dig holes, take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints — do we keep nature and children too far apart in the interest of protecting (or overprotecting) them both?


Sunday, 5 August 2012

New projects - Inaburra Preschool Bangor, Sydney, New South Wales.

Inaburra Preschool
Bangor, Sydney, New South Wales
 Construction: J M Landscapes

The design brief for this project was to,
* Create a safer more natural environment that would provide clear supervisory sight lines,
* Incorporate "dead" space that had previously been used for retaining or had been nominated by child care
   regulatory bodies as unusable,
* Restructure the playground levels to provide a clear direct pathway from top to bottom, reducing trip 
   hazards and providing a gently ascent/descent for parents with prams,
* Repurposing the lower slopes to incorporate play and small group areas.     

Preschool playspace, After, 2012. 

Preschool playspace, After, 2012. 

Preschool playspace, Before, 2011. Top and middle tiers. The middle tier of the playground had stairs whose treads and risers were of equal size. This made it  difficult for children of this age group to  ascend/ descend safely. Additionally, the step treads were too small to be used for seating. It was requested that the new design should break up the open space in the tier to provide a series of smaller more intimate spaces.

Preschool playspace, After, 2012. 

Preschool playspace, Before, 2011.  Middle and lower tiers. Educators advised that the fixed cargo/scramble net was rarely use by children and that the series of stepped concrete levels was providing a mobility difficulty for parents with prams and a trip hazard for the children.

Preschool playspace, After, 2012. Middle and lower tiers. In the fore ground is a small segment of the gently graduated Stoneset pathway that now links all levels. In the rear is a series of child dimensioned stairs that can be used for small group work or as ad-hoc seating for performances.

Preschool playspace, Before, 2011. Top and middle tiers. Educators reported that the children had grown bored with the fixed slide and were rolling down the adjacent slope instead.

Preschool playspace, After, 2012. Middle tier.

Preschool playspace, Before, 2011. Top and middle tiers. The sandpit had been built on a slope which caused the sand to flow downwards out of the pit and onto other areas of the play ground. A concrete wall had been build around the outer lower rim of the pit to prevent this. Educators advised that the wall was non-functional and unsightly .

Preschool playspace, After, 2012. Top and middle tiers. The new sand pit is stepped and incorporates equipment boxes that double as seating, raised building platforms and a water channel that bisects the pit, doubles as a tier wall and empties into a dry creek bed watering the sensory plantings.

Preschool playspace, After, 2012. Top and middle tiers. Instead of emerging from a pump the water bubbles up from a sandstone cauldron before emptying into the rill. The water flow is controlled by an educator accessing a nearby tap which is fitted with a vandal proof keyed valve.

Preschool playspace, After, 2012. Top and middle tiers. The sandstone cauldron emptying into the rill.

Preschool playspace, After, 2012. Top and middle tiers. The sandstone rill acts as a terrace within the sand pit, a building platform and a source of water for the children and the vegetation within the creek bed.

Preschool playspace, After, 2012. Top and middle tiers. The sandstone rill.

Preschool playspace, Before, 2011. Middle tier. Prior to redevelopment the area beneath the sandpit was compacted grass, used by the children as an informal pathway to the sandpit. 

Preschool playspace, After,  2012. Middle tier. After  redevelopment the area incorporates a formal stepping stone pathway, a dry creek bed, a mini labyrinth/seating area and sensory plantings.

Preschool playspace, After,  2012. Middle tier. After  redevelopment the area incorporates a formal stepping stone pathway, a dry creek bed, a mini labyrinth/seating area and sensory plantings.

Preschool playspace, After,  2012. Upper tier. A large bamboo teepee seat is ringed with sensory plantings and fragrant climbers which will grow upward and between the poles creating a shaded intimated small group area/storytelling space.
Preschool playspace, Before, 2011. Lower tier.
Educators advised that they wished the area to be redesigned to create a safer, more natural environment that would provide clear supervisory sight lines, utilise "dead" space that had previously been used for retaining or had been nominated by child care regulatory bodies as unusable, and to re-purpose the lower slopes to incorporate play and small group areas.

Preschool playspace, Before, 2011. Lower tier.
Educators advised that they wished the area to be redesigned to create a safer, more natural environment that would provide clear supervisory sight lines, utilise "dead" space that had previously been used for retaining or had been nominated by child care regulatory bodies as unusable, and to re-purpose the lower slopes to incorporate play and small group areas.

Preschool playspace, After,  2012. A new mixed surface bike track.

Preschool playspace, Before, 2011. Lower tier.
"Dead" space that had previously been nominated by child care regulatory bodies as unusable.

Preschool playspace, After,  2012. Lower tier. Prior "dead" space has been re-purposed to incorporate play and small group areas.

Preschool playspace, Before, 2011. Lower tier.
"Dead" space that had previously been used for retaining .

Preschool playspace, After, 2012. Middle and lower tiers. The slope between the middle and lower tiers is now has two separate climbing areas, (ropes and a climbing wall)  a double slide and a tunnel slide.

Preschool playspace, After, 2012. Middle and lower tiers. The slope between the middle and lower tiers is now has two separate climbing areas, (ropes and a climbing wall)  a double slide and a tunnel slide. 

Preschool playspace, After, 2012. Upper and middle tiers. A series of child dimensioned stairs that can be used for small group work or as ad-hoc seating for performances, a climbing wall and an  ascending log stepper causeway.

Preschool playspace, After, 2012.  Upper and middle tiers. A series of child dimensioned stairs that can be used for small group work or as ad-hoc seating for performances, a climbing wall and an  ascending log stepper causeway with sensory plantings.