Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Central Purpose and Goals of the Outdoor Classroom

The central purpose of the landscape restoration project is to expose children to the benefit of a beautiful and sustainable landscape that introduces them to natural elements for play, social interaction, and educational opportunities.

A diverse and healthy landscape will compliment the Centrals School’s curriculum in that it will provide an opportunity to observe nature and the natural patterns that underpin the fields of biology, mathematics , physics and of course art. For instance, the great poet, thinker and naturalist Henry David Thoreau credited his language skills, in “Faith in a Seed”, on his life long observation of nature.

The goal of exposing children to nature is seen in research documented and cited by Richard Louv in “The Last Child in the Woods” and Robin Moore in “Play for All” which indicates that because children are sensory creatures, interaction with nature has the following attributes:

Increases sensory stimulation
Increases Cognitive abilities
Aids creativity and learning
Increases attention span
Benefits language skills
Develops self confidence
Develops the power of observation
Furthers a sense of connectedness

The Concept Plan for Restoration of the Central School Campus includes the following design elements to achieve the above goals:

-Walking Trail: a perimeter path that exposes the user to the various existing and planned landscape elements and plant communities. The trail will meander through the various forest, meadow and plant communities. This trail will link the children to the school entrance and surrounding neighborhood paths.

-Natural Play elements will include a rain garden, a log walk composed of tree trunks and limbs, boulder walks, sculpted earth mounds for climbing, paved areas for play, and relocation of the smaller play structures. These areas are to be designed to allow children to challenge themselves at their own skill level so their skills can develop at their own pace. These play features shall be shaped and formed to create niches to allow for kids to gather in small intimate groups or be alone.

-A “re-wilding” or naturalizing of the existing landscape areas. This will include a meadow, seeded
with native grasses and some wild flowers from the edge of the existing forest into the existing athletic field. This undulating meadow area shall be planted with native shrubs and tree saplings and serve to extend and enlarge the usable landscape for the kids. The meadow shall be shaped to create distinct spaces and still accommodate organized play. The campus shall be planned with plant communities that are in transition which will compliment the existing forest to offer the user a full range of plant diversity

-The overall effect of the above design elements of the proposed restoration shall be to create a very diverse community park in the center of town.

Terrence Parker, Landscape Architect

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