EarthLooms for Nature Play Spaces

Boys and girls of all ages flock to the EarthLoom at Tremont Elementary School in Tremont, Maine, June 2013 image: Cheryl Corson

Boys and girls of all ages flock to the EarthLoom at Tremont Elementary School in Tremont, Maine, June 2013
image: Cheryl Corson

Kids instinctively understand the ancient art of weaving and they love doing it. When you present them with the opportunity to weave outdoors with freely available local plant material, working collaboratively in small groups, you have a winning combination and a landscape element that can easily be integrated into most nature play spaces.

EarthLoom was developed by Maine artists Susan and Richard Merrill as an artistic expression of community building. Embedded within the practical act of weaving are elements of cooperation, collaboration, and peacemaking. Their EarthLoom Foundation helps support projects around the world.

As a landscape architect and CPSI (Certified Playground Safety Inspector) involved in nature play space design in the Mid-Atlantic region, I encourage institutions to include nature play elements in their spaces. As a longtime weaver, however, I was deeply moved following the groundbreaking of a nature play space at the Tremont Elementary School on Mount Desert Island, Maine, last June. Designer Kreg McCune created an EarthLoom, the physical and symbolic centerpiece of this new space. Within only a few hours, kids of all ages had created a work of art on it.

Karen Kelly Mullin of Willow Oak Group, weaves on the Brookside Gardens EarthLoom, November 2013. The weaving includes Amsonia, Rosemary, Holly, and Spearmint.  image: Cheryl Corson

Karen Kelly Mullin of Willow Oak Group, weaves on the Brookside Gardens EarthLoom, November 2013. The weaving includes Amsonia, Rosemary, Holly, and Spearmint.
image: Cheryl Corson

Last fall, when a work group within the Maryland Partnership for Children in Nature planned its inaugural Nature Play Space workshop, they decided to create an EarthLoom as a participatory event, and later donate it to the host, Brookside Gardens, in Wheaton, Maryland, for their children’s garden. The event was attended by 150 teachers and park staff, and the adults took to weaving just as the kids in Maine had. The EarthLoom itself was built by young adult volunteers from the Maryland Conservation Corps, using wood from downed trees in local parks. They lovingly stripped and smoothed the bark, and even incised plant patterns on its surface.

Maryland Conservation Corps volunteers built, and are warping this EarthLoom. Nature Play Space Workshop, Brookside Gardens, November 2013 image: Cheryl Corson

Maryland Conservation Corps volunteers built, and are warping, this EarthLoom. Nature Play Space Workshop, Brookside Gardens, November 2013
image: Cheryl Corson

This April, another EarthLoom will take shape, at the NoVA Outside annual conference, “Early Childhood Outside: The Arts in Nature.” Again, an EarthLoom will be built and donated to the event’s host school, Westlawn Elementary School, in Falls Church, Virginia. An easily accessible webinar on using EarthLoom in a nature play space is planned for this summer to assist school and park staff in the siting, appropriate sizing, and programming of EarthLoom curriculum activities. Hopefully, this simple yet profound project can be shared with people everywhere.

by Cheryl Corson, RLA, ASLA, CPSI. Cheryl is in private practice in the Mid-Atlantic region. She is committed to nature play for all children, and belongs to the Children’s Outdoor Environments PPN.

4 Responses to “EarthLooms for Nature Play Spaces”

  1. David Hollands Says:

    Love the inspiration of your article on earth looms. As I am uk based I wanted to know how to connect with some of the ideas and pioneering ways we are developing here maybe have someone call me would be really appreciated. David Hollands thanks

  2. Risky Reads: The Egg Toss Edition Says:

    […] earth loom would be so easy to do, and make such a cool community project in any […]

  3. Outdoor Classrooms | Mindful Healthy Life Says:

    […] cabinets with small parts toys for creative play, several learning stations, and an Earth Loom designed by Cheryl Corson Design (like the one that was recently built at Brookside Gardens in […]


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