A Natural Urban Environment Development Project Along Chicago's Belmont Avenue Corridor.
Think back to your earliest childhood memory involving nature and the great outdoors – what do you remember clearly? Personally, I remember collecting the ingredients for my magic potions in my backyard: rocks, sticks, leaves, berries and of course mud. Sound familiar?
We probably have another common experience, all of these adventures we had are what experts call “unstructured, adult-less explorations.” Huh?
Learning through discovery and exploration of a one’s surrounding begins at a very early and is crucial phase in a child’s lifelong development. Research has shown that exposure to nature early on fosters an appreciation for the environment. Not to mention, decreases ADHD symptoms, depression and violent and/or destructive behaviors.
Unfortunately, children growing up in urban environments are suffering from a disconnect from nature. Kids live in a concrete jungle; they are taught not to pick flowers, roll around in the grass, pick up sticks and are never allowed to get dirty.
How do we create the next generation of environmental stewards? We need to bring nature back into the city AND make it accessible to kids on a daily basis. The concept of Natural PlayScapes arose to reconnect kids with the environment. The design is simple, yet brilliant: get kids as close to nature and with little to no man-made structures. For more information, check out this Wikipedia article on Natural Playscapes here. Here are some great images from the natural playscapes garden at The Garfield Park Conservatory: