Natural Child Play Roundtable Planned for Fall 2012

The importance of “natural play” has gained attention as a way to improve the cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development of children. We are often tasked with developing natural play areas for schools, communities, institutions, and private organizations. A natural play roundtable is being organized for Fall 2012 to encourage pediatricians, insurance specialists, attorneys, educational and public administrators, and landscape architects to participate and discuss how to create healthier, more effective environments for children. The program will be hosted by the Landscape Architecture Department of the College of Environmental Science and Forestry, New York State University, and will provide for web-based attendance to permit national interaction. For more information or to volunteer with coordination, contact Aris Stalis.

Federal SITES – Something for Everyone?

US Tax Court demonstration rain garden
US Tax Court demonstration rain garden
image: GSA

Who or what has the most potential to be the drivers in implementing  the SITES™ rating system and sustainable sites methodologies?  The SITES Pilot Projects Phase is still underway and presently three projects have been certified.  But where will this new approach get the most traction at the largest scale?   While the federal government system is usually not touted in the media for innovation and cost savings, it may be the place where the most number of projects originate or are being developed using the SITES model.   What does this mean to the rest of us? Can federal initiatives carry over to landscape architects who may not be working on federal projects but are looking for ways to introduce SITES to clients and other professionals?

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Playground Sun Safety

Waterpark Ranch, Los Angeles California, SuperSpan Multi-Level Pyramid
Waterpark Ranch, Los Angeles California, SuperSpan Multi-Level Pyramid
image: USA Shade & Fabric Structures, Inc

Landscape architects and designers are constantly faced with the challenge of designing safe and attractive play areas. One particularly important aspect is the need for shade and weather protection. The importance of adding shade to playgrounds has come to the forefront as daycare owners and playground designers realize the importance of sun protection, especially for children who are particularly susceptible to the sun’s damaging effects.

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New Resources for Inviting Nature Back into Play

A play stream at the Nature Play Area and Discovery Garden at Minnesota’s Tamarack Nature Center
A play stream at the Nature Play Area and Discovery Garden at Minnesota’s Tamarack Nature Center
image: MIG, Inc

Climbing into the arms of a sweet smelling southern magnolia tree, splashing in the miniature waterfalls of a limestone lined creek, and sifting through a playground of pea gravel in search of ancient sea fossils are a few of my treasured memories of enjoying the freedom to explore the natural world that surrounded me as a child.

Due to shifting societal priorities, children today have fewer opportunities to engage in these types of open-ended activities than their parents did just a generation ago. In his 2005 book, “Last Child in the Woods”, Richard Louv draws on decades of research from various disciplines and summarizes that, due to this trend, kids in the U.S. are suffering from what he terms “nature-deficit disorder.”

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