A Conversation on Trauma Responsive Design Thinking

The Children’s Outdoor Environments PPN campfire session took place on November 12, 2022, in San Francisco at the ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture. / image: Alexandra Hay

ASLA 2022 Conference on Landscape Architecture Recap: The Children’s Outdoor Environments PPN Campfire Session on Trauma Responsive Design 

Kat Lewis, ASLA – Moderator
Amy Wagenfeld, Affil. ASLA – Campfire Lead
Lisa Casey, ASLA – Campfire Facilitator
Chad Kennedy, ASLA – Campfire Facilitator

The Children’s Outdoor Environments Professional Practice Network (PPN) hosted their campfire session on Saturday afternoon of the conference. PPN leaders were joined by an enthusiastic group of around twenty individuals who participated in the discussion. Our session was opened by Kat, who gave a brief overview of the purpose, with the focus not being on a single solution but to explore the complexity and considerations of trauma responsive design. But first, we needed to establish that there is no clear definition of trauma responsive design and little to no evidence-based research to support it, but there needs to be!

Amy and Lisa went through a series of questions about what trauma is, and whether there is a difference between childhood and adult trauma to engage the group and get the conversation going. They went on to talk about stress and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and how toxic stress feeds ACEs and collectively changes the child’s brain structure and negatively alters their development.

This became a call to action that launched into some brainstorming about landscape architects partnering with healthcare professionals to study the impact of landscape projects on reducing the impacts of child trauma.

We had a strong turnout for this discussion and there were many interested in joining or learning more about the Children’s Outdoor Environments PPN. Even if you were not able to join us in San Francisco, we encourage you to join the Children’s Outdoor Environments PPN and considering becoming a PPN leader.

Children, Nature, and Health Reference List

At our campfire session, it came up in conversation that having a list of child and nature-focused articles would be helpful. What follows is a reference list organized by topic (some articles appear in multiple sections). It is intended to be representative of recent and seminal publications and by no means covers all the amazing literature that has been published, so let’s think of this list as an evolving resource. Please share your favorite articles in the comments section and we will keep the list growing. We plan to add an expanded version to the PPN’s Resources webpage in the future.

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