A pre-school in Jamaica Plain, MA is transformed from THIS:
and from THIS:
Nazareth Children’s Center had a visionary director who was in the forefront of childcare providers who understand the concept of providing abundant experience for children in a lush environment. Ginny and I worked with the teachers (who requested that the toddler play structure be removed) and created a variety of habitats to enchant both children and wildlife.
Toddlers just learning to walk can perfect it on a smooth surface and dig in loose soil surrounded by ferns and Carex spp.
can play in sand among smooth boulders and seaside goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens),
and take a side trip through little bluestem and low-bush blueberries. Red maple (Acer rubrum), Shadbush (Amelanchier canadensis), and pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) will grow to shade the south-facing surfaces. Pre-schoolers can still climb but also run on a hidden path through smooth sumac (Rhus glabra), red maples, oaks (Quercus spp.)
A low bench seats them within reach of the wondrous event that is the fuzzy aments of pussywillow (Salix discolor)
Sassafras (Sassafras albidum), striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum), flowering raspberry (Rubus odorata), native asters, vines, black-eyed susans, and several native fern species add the dimension of a tiny restoration of the regional plant associations.
A rain barrel releasing water into an otherwise dry streambed with two bridges, and a shed roof planted with a variety of shallow-rooted species, make a rainstorm a play event as well as a lesson in natural forces.
Logs are for defining space and balancing.
And smooth boulders (settled to no more than 18” above the surface) are both seats and slides.
Equipment quickly at hand in the shed means everyone can water the plants.
sometimes getting side-tracked with interesting bugs.
For those interested in the construction process, it is detailed with weekly posts on our blog.
© 2011, Ruth Parnall. All rights reserved. This article is the property of Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens. We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.