Natural Play Space at Arcadia!

This spring season we’re welcoming a brand new natural playspace to Arcadia's educational farm!

What is a natural play space anyway?

According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, a natural playspace is:

"A space intentionally designed or designated to integrate natural components into a place for
structured and unstructured play and learning."

Part of my responsibilities as the Farm Education Intern was to create such a place for field trippers, summer campers and other young visitors to the farm.

To be honest, a natural playspace wasn't something I was familiar with from my own childhood experience. I generally had woods or the beach to play in and explore. These naturally occurring playspaces are dwindling, or may not exist at all for many of the children who visit the farm. I figured that making the playspace was very much about re-creating a natural exploration experience for those kids.

The process began with research in order to gather some ideas that might work within the parameters of Arcadia Farm. Design Principles for Nature Play Spaces and New American Phenom by Liz Kirchner were both excellent resources. I also visited the Nature Explore Classroom at the Washington Youth Garden.

Designing and building the structures in the playspace was really a team effort between Stephanie, the other Farm Education Intern, and me. We wanted to include different areas that could be appealing to a variety of personalities. We wanted kids to have space to thoughtfully assess their own risk and exercise their creativity to have fun with natural materials. We wanted to create a place at Arcadia Farm where kids of all sizes and ages could be silly and happy about being on a farm!

-The following are a few highlights:

-Two digging areas (because after all, who doesn't want to just dig?);

-A straw bale pyramid for climbing (thank you to Mt. Vernon for supplying these);

-A few stump circles for gathering and hanging out;

-A bamboo bean teepee to serve as a nook/hideout; and

-A table with building blocks, another table with rock checkers (carrots vs. eggplants).

Creating a play space was a unique experience. I think it will be even more interesting to observe how students and other young visitors utilize the space differently throughout the season. I hope that our creation will be an area for kids who visit the farm to dig, jump, climb, run, wish, hop, skip, build and just be kids!

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