Book Review of The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh by Kathryn Aalto
Although I have read Winnie-the-Pooh and grew up watching the Disney movies, a book on the forest that inspired Winnie-the-Pooh seemed a stretch for design application, even with children’s outdoors environments. But it isn’t. Winnie-the-Pooh’s 100 Acre Forest was based on the real Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, England. Preservationists have kept it much the same as it was when A.A. Milne wrote the stories so it can be visited today. Kathryn Aalto’s approach to her subject is nuanced and thorough. It provides a perfect case study for children spending time in nature.
Divided into three parts, the book starts with a short biography of A.A. Milne and the illustrator E.H. Shepard as well as the creation of the story. The youngest and most precocious of three sons, Milne could identify words before age three. With two parents who were teachers and the nature around Hampstead in the late 1800s, he thrived. His father told the children, “Keep out of doors as much as you can, and see all you can of nature: she has the most wonderful exhibition, always open and always free.”  It is hard to imagine the breadth of the territory that he explored with his nine-year-old brother as they wandered through the British countryside. The text includes Milne’s essay on their three-day walking tour through the country and villages. This narrative fits well with Louise Chawla’s research that most people who care about the environment had either an adult modeling a love of nature or spent extensive time in nature as a child.  Milne had both.
Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden: A New Design Typology
After seventeen years in the making, the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden opened in the fall of 2013. With a $63 million construction budget, the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens had transformed the eight-acre site along White Rock Lake in the northern part of the grounds into something new that merged typologies. The adventure garden fuses seventeen educational interactive displays with lush native or adapted plantings and water features. It is part botanical immersion and part outdoor curriculum.
An entry plaza, small amphitheater, and generously sized café placed adjacent to the garden entrance easily accommodates school groups. Through the whimsical metal entry gate with the state flower and butterfly is a plaza with a lively at-grade fountain surrounded by shade structures and seating.
A water narrative starts at the entry and continues throughout the site. One of the unique challenges to the site is a significant grade change. The design turns this into an advantage with generously sized water features flowing from the entry to the edge of the property by the lake. The Cascades allows a close up view of water as it falls.
We are looking forward to the ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO in Chicago this November. Join us for a high energy PPN meeting to spark creativity and create new connections! We are honored to have Robin Moore, Honorary ASLA, and Nilda Cosco, PhD, Affiliate ASLA, as our meeting keynotes.
Our presentations last year were a hit with record meeting attendance. We are continuing the dialogue of new ideas with another round of presentations, and we invite you to take part. Participants can look at broad issues like universal design, safety, emerging health issues for children, etc. or focus on a specific project. A presentation can be about process, innovations, trends—whatever you want to share.
Interested in presenting? Submit a title, short summary paragraph, and brief outline for your slides (one to two words per slide) to Lisa Horne at lhorne (at) rviplanning.com by Friday, August 28.
For inspiration, check out the amazing work done by the Campus Planning and Design PPN in 2013 and 2014.
We look forward to seeing you in Chicago! The Children’s Outdoor Environments PPN meeting will take place on Sunday, November 8 at 9:15 AM.
Nature Play & Learning Places: Creating and Managing Places Where Children Engage with Nature touches on nearly every topic at the forefront of the children and nature movement. As the primary author, Robin Moore, Hon. ASLA, a professor at NC State University and internationally recognized expert on outdoor children’s environments, led a team of specialists. The extensive list of project staff, project steering committee, and five subcommittees is a who’s who of influential individuals and organizations in the movement. The guidelines were underwritten by a grant from the US Forest Service and supported by the National Wildlife Federation and the Natural Learning Initiative at NC State College of Design.
The audience is broad. The guidelines are for “professionals responsible for outdoor spaces used by families and children” (10). Many fit within this category: policy makers, advocates, system managers, site managers, program developers, educators, and design professionals. Landscape architects are in the final category.
Lisa Horne, ASLA, reviews Birthright by Stephen Kellert, giving insight into how his exploration of humans’ relationship with nature is distinct from that of his predecessors and contemporaries. This analysis touches on the intricacies of Kellert’s arguments, including the role of design in this broad and complex arena, and how connections between humans and nature can be beneficial to both. Kellert’s approach is nuanced, balanced, and honest, providing sound academic reasoning as well as a human perspective on what is, after all, a fundamentally human issue.
–Brenna Castro, Associate ASLA, Children’s Outdoor Environments PPN Officer
Book Review: Birthright: People and Nature in the Modern World
As the keynote at the 2013 ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO in Boston, Stephen Kellert gave a provocative presentation for the profession. “Biophilia” is a relatively new concept in design and Kellert’s recent work Birthright gives a heartwarming survey of ideas with relevancy to design and theory.
Birthright provides a basis for incorporating nature into our lives. Kellert leaves classifications of nature open-ended and defines biophilia as a love of life. We have an innate desire for nature, which is “a birthright that must be cultivated and earned” (Kellert xiii). This attitude neither advocates a return to an Arcadian past nor forecasts apocalyptic doom. Instead, he asserts that humans will recognize their own self-interest and benefit from investing in the environment. An audience of academics, leaders, policy makers, and professionals interested in biophilia will appreciate the pace, text, and reasoning.
It was a noteworthy year for the Children’s Outdoor Environments PPN at the ASLA Annual Meeting in Denver, with record-breaking meeting attendance and stirring presentations. Highlights and links to session notes are below.
Annual PPN Meeting
With well over 35 participants, the annual meeting broke PPN records for attendance. The meeting started with a call for more volunteers to join the leadership team and kicked off with three PechaKucha-style presentations by Joy Kuebler, John McConkey, and Alison Kelly. Topics ranged from pop-up parks to pilot studies on play spaces addressing developmental disorders to schoolyard gardens. Lois Brink, a founder of Learning Landscapes in Denver, gave the keynote with an original perspective on funding for schoolyards.
The Children’s Outdoor Environments PPN is looking forward to the ASLA Annual Meeting in Denver this November. Join us for an exciting PPN meeting to jumpstart creativity and encourage new connections! Perhaps you have heard of the “PechaKucha” phenomenon, a whole new way to share talks with 20 slides at 20 seconds each. This year our meeting will include a series of PechaKucha-style presentations on children’s outdoor environments and we are inviting you to take part.
Participants can look at broad issues like universal design, safety, emerging health issues for children, etc. or focus on a specific project. A presentation can be around process, innovations, trends—whatever you want to share. We will get to learn from and know each other better, and have some fun in the process. Interested in presenting? Submit a title, short summary paragraph, and brief outline for the 20 slides (one to two words per slide) to PPN Co-Chair Lisa Horne by September 12, 2014.
For inspiration, see a PechaKucha guide on YouTube. Also, check out the amazing work done by the Campus Planning and Design PPN last year.
Thanks in advance,
Lisa Horne and Julie Johnson Co-Chairs, Children’s Outdoor Environments PPN
Many of the papers within children’s geographies end with some kind of recommendation for the building of child-friendly cities. But what do we mean by child-friendly cities? This workshop will explore different ways of conceptualizing children, cities, child-friendliness and their interrelationships.
Policies aimed at child-friendly cities presuppose that cities are not child-friendly: cities have to change in order to become child-friendly. This supposition reveals an anti-urban way of thinking. It juxtaposes the urban jungle vs. the rural idyll. These contrasting connotations are very much based on the relatively poor provision of outdoor play facilities in urban environments and their assumed abundance in rural environments. But today, enrichment activities have become more prominent in many children’s everyday life. Will this emphasis on enrichment activities change the rural into the urban idyll?
On a beautiful October day, Klyde Warren Park opened to the public in 2012 after years of planning and hard work. The 5.2-acre park spans Woodall Rodgers Freeway between St. Paul Street and Pearl Street in Dallas, Texas. It effectively created new real estate over the sunken highway and reunited downtown Dallas and the burgeoning Uptown with its trendy restaurants, offices, and multifamily development.
Within the highly programmed park, the corner at St. Paul Street and the westbound access road is dedicated to the Children’s Park. Between the Botanical Garden and Reading Room and across from the Great Lawn, this space of less than half an acre is fenced. Closely aligned steel poles, which are similar to the Nasher Sculpture Center bollards less than a block away, allow visual access, but block movement. The entry is an elaborate white portal that can be locked at night. Signage provides additional guidelines for visitors entering the Children’s Park.
Circulation is in a circle to the west of the entrance with a smaller open space to the east. The playful water feature with amphitheater-style seating is the first element that draws visitors through the portal. Springy, colorful paths weave through the dramatic topography of berms covered in artificial turf. The heavily padded paths cushion any rough landings from climbing the berms. Although river birch does not always perform well in Dallas, these trees are healthy and their exfoliating bark and animated foliage contribute to the excitement of the space.
The ASLA Annual Meeting in Boston had several informative presentations and exciting events on children’s outdoor environments. As always, the conference ends too soon. If you missed it this year or overlooked one or two of the presentations, see highlights below.
Field Session: Outdoor Classrooms Designed for Learning
This field session included an afternoon of touring three different schools: Harvard-Kent School, Russell School, and Perry School. The Boston Schoolyard Initiative has invested over $20 million in projects over the past 18 years with a total of 32 outdoor classrooms constructed. Over 850 teachers have been involved with the project and at least 30,000 school children are affected each year by the Boston Schoolyard Initiative’s work.
The notes for this session can still be downloaded here.
Fall weather is finally here and we are excited to convene in Boston for the ASLA Annual Meeting next month. This year’s Meeting features several educational sessions and networking events of particular interest to members of the Children’s Outdoor Environments PPN.
Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation by Sharon Danks
The amount of published work addressing the design of children’s outdoor environments is slim, which made it a delight to hear that Sharon Danks had published a book on the design of schoolyards. She establishes herself as an authority on the subject in the first few pages of the book; she has visited over 200 schools in eight countries and worked with the San Francisco Unified School District to create green schoolyard plans for sixteen schools. Her schoolyard plan for Rosa Parks Elementary School is discussed in the previous post “It Takes a Village”. Dinks also consults on schoolyard design through her own practice, Bay Tree Design, Inc. In short, she has the expertise.
As summer comes to an end, we look forward to the ASLA Conference in Phoenix this coming September/October. This year includes several educational sessions and networking events particularly related to children’s outdoor environments:
Seven years ago, Richard Louv coined the term “nature-deficit disorder” in his book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. He is now giving us possibilities to move beyond it in The Nature Principle: Human Restoration and the End of Nature-Deficit Disorder. While the first book looked at nature’s absence from children’s daily lives, the second recognizes that the need for nature extends to all of us. The Nature Principle, as articulated by Louv, provides that nature is crucial for humans to be healthy—physically, emotionally, and spiritually.