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Natural Playground

At the Eliot Pearson Children's School we developed a "Natural Playground" as an extension of the children's learning environment. The addition of this playground provides a space for children to engage in gross motor play in new ways, and develop their interests in nature and science through hands-on discovery and engagement with outdoor, natural settings. The planning and development of this project include all members of the 'community of learners,' including teachers, university faculty and staff, and the parents and children we serve. Rusty Keeler, of Planet Earthplayscapes, is the consultant we worked with. Initial construction began in August 2009.

Natural playgrounds are relatively new venues for outdoor learning in the United States. As a result there is very little research on the benefits and use of these playscapes. As a school positioned in the Child Study and Human Development Department we were able to document and record the changes in children's play and develop an understanding of what different playground elements afford children the opportunity to do in this new playground context. Our hope is that this outdoor classroom will be used as a research and training site for teachers and landscape architects interested in natural spaces for young children's education. On a larger level, this research will be disseminated to a larger audience both on a domestic and international level through publications and conferences.

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