Belmont Open Space Initiative

A Natural Urban Environment Development Project Along Chicago's Belmont Avenue Corridor.

Natural PlayScapes

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:

Sand pit feature in the Natural PlayScapes Garden – Garfield Park Conservatory.

Mud pit and sensory table at the Natural PlayScapes Garden – Garfield Park Conservatory.

Fort building feature in the Natural PlayScapes Garden – Garfield Park Conservatory

Additional examples:

 The Cincinnati Nature Center  – Marge and Charles Schott Nature PlayScape

Additional Resources:

Chicago Wilderness – Leave No Child Inside Initiative

Children and Nature Network

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Mission

The Belmont Open Space Initiative is an attempt to reclaim the vacant lots along Chicago’s Belmont Avenue between Ashland and Kedzie. It is our goal to restore the dilapidated plots into healthy natural urban environments accessible to the community.

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