Nature Playscapes–Zoo New England

Zoo New England educators Stephanie Veitz and Jennifer Jenson asked us if we’d be interested in being one of the first to check out their new natural playscapes.  Let’s think about the type of things that make it onto the “Angelika and Lindsay perk up their ears” list:

  • playspace– CHECK!
  • natural elements and recycled materials–CHECK!
  • community partnerships–CHECK!
  • nature mentoring–CHECK!
  • art–CHECK!
  • efficient, creative, and environmentally responsible use of under-utilized empty space–CHECK!
  • being surrounded by actual perky-eared animals–CHECK!

Yes, I think Zoo New England thought correctly!  They invited us to take a look at their work in progress last weekend.  This time, we went to check out the Stone Zoo, although they are constructing a similar playscape at Franklin Park, as well.

Check out the sensory table!  They can easily change out the contents, although these selections are hits:

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While a focus is child-led exploring, they offer a variety of prompts.  Here’s a nature guide worksheet.  They also include leaf rubbing supplies, a scavenger hunt, and will continue to include more based on observation and inspiration.  IMG_1471

What would your children do with a simple wooden frame?  Bridget and Fiona just completed Friends of the Fells youth programming and were inspired to share their recently honed lean-to skills.  This will be a likely be a common approach, but I bet it will be far from the only one.

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Colorful blocks, flowers, and mirrors?  Add some art to your engineering, or discuss optics, color, and more:

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The girls took to the “balance beams” right away.  They will also be including a variety of stumps to hop on or hide behind in this space.

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The zoos expect to open these spaces to the public by the first week of August, 2016. One exciting addition that had not yet been installed: a large nest replica the children can climb in, similar to the one near the bears Smokey and Bubba!  The space opens next month, but they plan to continue to tweak, develop, and listen to input and feedback.  They’d also like to run workshops with groups–if you’d be interested in joining a Playground Hunt contingent, let us know!  When will you go check out the new Zoo New England playscapes?

 

 

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