by Lisa Howard, MLA, RLA
The ASLA Children’s Outdoor Environments Professional Practice Network (PPN) is pleased to share a summary of the PPN’s third Zoom Book Club. Hosted on October 3, 2023, 15 attendees welcomed Ruth Wilson, PhD, educator and author of Naturally Inclusive: Engaging Children of All Abilities Outdoors, published in 2022 by Gryphon House. Dr. Ruth Wilson has several published works focusing on early childhood environmental education. She is an educational consultant who has worked with Sesame Street in designing nature education programs and has been an educator for over 30 years including work at Bowling Green State University. She currently works as the curator for the Children & Nature Network’s Research Library.
The book provides landscape architects with a basis of knowledge and understanding of children’s needs and the many benefits a natural environment provides for children’s whole development, including children with physical, sensory, and/or cognitive challenges such as autism or ADHD. Flagship programs from around the country provide program spotlights throughout the book providing detailed successful examples in relation to each chapter’s focus.
PPN leader Amy Wagenfeld, Affiliate ASLA, prepared and moderated this event leading the group through a series of thoughtful questions that were key to the themes of the book and ending by reading a passage illustrating how creative inclusive design can empower and engage children of differing abilities including a wheelchair accessible tree house.
Can you describe the concept of kinship and its importance as a keystone to nature play and inclusive design?
Ruth shared, for children with differing abilities this is especially important to feel like they belong. Kinship suggests a relationship. With kinship one can feel more belonging. In terms of humans, we are all kin, but kinship is much broader than physical connectedness. It has a lot to do with the emotions of who and what we feel connected with. Pets are an example, kinship with a pet is a part of the family demonstrating the emotional element of kinship.