Written and submitted by Michelle Isaacson, Southern YES! Coordinator
As one of their projects, the New Prague YES! team collaborated with Ney Nature Center (Southern Coordinator Host Site) staff to create a playscape at the nature center. A playscape is a play area designed with natural materials, such as wood, and landscapes, such as hills, as a way to bring kids back to nature. Students constructed four different areas for children to use. The first is a hollowed out stump that was halved and set on the ground to create a tunnel for kids to crawl through. Another feature is a balance beam made of logs, as posts, and boards connecting the logs. The third structure consists of two wooden climbing features with a rope connecting them so a visitor can climb up and across to the other side. Lastly, students used an old wire spool to create a table and chairs.
The process began with the YES! team compiling various playscape features and presenting the options to the Ney Nature Center. Votes were taken and the students were told which features the center would like. From there, the team figured out which were the most feasible for them to build and got to work! They collected as many materials from inside the park as possible. The goal is to continue expanding on the playscape, adding in additional equipment to extend the free play experience. Park visitors are welcome to use the play area and nature center programs have also utilized the space in both free play and instructor-led activities.
… a ditch somewhere – or a creek, meadow, woodlot, or marsh…. These are places of initiation, where the borders between ourselves and other creatures break down, where the earth gets under our nails and a sense of place gets under our skin.… Everybody has a ditch, or ought to. For only the ditches and the field, the woods, the ravines – can teach us to care enough for all the land.”
— Robert Michael Pyle, The Thunder Tree, 1993