Did you know that there’s a National Institute for Play? (www.nifplay.org). How cool is that? There’s been a lot of talk lately about play: Its importance not only for early childhood development (which is very important), but for people – and animals, too – of all ages. The new book by Stuart Brown and Christopher Vaughan called Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul has been getting a lot of press, and for good reason. We need play, and just as Richard Louv uncovered that kids are not getting outdoors enough in Last Child in the Woods, we are not playing enough, either. So, if we’re suffering from nature-deficit disorder and play-deficit disorder, wouldn’t the perfect antidote be some outdoor playtime?
The Importance of PLAY
March 11, 2009
Planting the Healing Garden: Growing Your Own Bird Seed
March 6, 2009
Not much time for blogging lately, but here’s a good article about planting flowers that will attract birds into your garden. And if they don’t eat it all while it’s “on the vine,” you can harvest to feed the birds later. “How to Grow Your Own Bird Seed in the Garden.” Enjoy, and the birds will, too!
Planting the Healing Garden: Ornamental Grasses
February 26, 2009
It’s a balmy 41 degrees here in the Hudson Valley today. I’m not being sarcastic! Anything over 40 degrees is a welcome change, and it’s sunny to add…hm, what’s the opposite of adding insult to injury? Icing to cake?
Conference: Creating Sustainable Environments for Young Children
January 29, 2009
A colleague just sent me this announcement for the “Institute for Creating Sustainable Environments for Young Children” conference in Kansas City, MO. Dates are June 11-12, with a pre-conference day on June 10th for a site visit to Pembroke Hill Early Learning Center.
Nature-Deficit Disorder: Getting Kids Outdoors (watch the video clip!)
December 3, 2008
Here’s a nice television clip from CBS and wjz.com about Nature-Deficit Disorder (a term coined by Richard Louv of Last Child in the Woods and the Children & Nature Network). My favorite part is when TV anchor Don Shelby asks kids what “nature” means to them. You can either watch the clip (after a brief but nonetheless annoying advertisement) or just read the transcript. I’ve blogged about Louv before, so if you’re new and you want more, use “Louv” in a keyword search in the column to the right to pull up all relevant posts.
You can watch more news clips and get lots more great information about children and nature on the C&NN website.
And here are two more good related articles that I’ve come across recently:
“Research Shows a Walk in the Park Improves Attention in Children with ADHD,” by Frances E. Kuo and Andrea Faber Taylor, 2008. Click HERE to read the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign press release.
Amount of green space and childhood obesity:
“Neighborhood Greenness and 2-Year Changes in Body Mass Index of Children and Youth,” by Jeffrey Wilson and Gilbert Liu, 2008, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Vol. 35 No. 6.
Summary by Research Design Connections: “The amount of green space near their homes is related to the weights of inner city children. Children living in inner city neighborhoods with more green space (as determined from analysis of satellite photographs) have significantly lower body mass index changes as they grow taller than children living in areas with smaller amounts of green space.”
Many thanks to Heather for the photo of her beautiful daughter!
Book Review: Open Spaces Sacred Places
November 28, 2008
The Therapeutic Landscapes Resource Center takes a broad view of therapeutic landscapes, or what we call Landscapes for Health.™ According to our definition, any outdoor space that fosters health and wellness is a Landscape for Health. While we tend to focus more on healthcare design, we see great value in other spaces that put people in contact with nature: Community gardens, sensory gardens, public parks, nature preserves, gardens in prisons, and even indoor gardens and atria. It’s not often that you find a book that covers this breadth of examples, and that’s because there aren’t many organizations out there devoted to supporting this breadth of Landscapes for Health.
Enter the TKF Foundation (www.tkffdn.org), founded in 1996 by Tom and Kitty Stoner. TKF’s mission is “to provide the opportunity for a deeper human experience by supporting the creation of public greenspace that offers a temporary place of sanctuary, encourages reflection, provides solace, and engenders peace.” The T and K stand for Tom and Kitty, and the F stands for “Firesouls,™” leaders and individuals “who have the spark of hope and energy to find a way…to foster the creation of places that can become sacred and embedded in nature.” TKF has worked hand in hand with these Firesouls, often in ongoing relationships that go far beyond just donating funds, to build these open spaces and sacred places (see http://www.tkffdn.org/what/what_is_a_sacred_space.php for more on this).
In the past twelve years, TKF has funded more than 120 projects in and around the Maryland/Washington D.C. area, where the Stoners are based. Twelve of these projects are lovingly described, in words, photographs, and drawings, in the new book Open Spaces, Sacred Places (2008), written by Tom Stoner and Carolyn Rapp. These include nature preserves, vacant lots transformed into community gardens, an arboretum, gardens in healthcare facilities, a prison garden, and even a tree-planting project.
In each of the gardens, a bench made from recycled pickle barrel wood (originally designed by Chuck Foster and Paul Willey and now created by the inmates at Western Correctional Institution in Cumberland, MD) offers a place for people to sit, reflect, and connect to nature and each other. A yellow journal and pencil are tucked into a built-in pocket beneath each bench, and Open Spaces Sacred Places is filled with journal entries from people of all ages and walks of life who have been touched by the place they are visiting. Here are three examples: “I give thanks to whatever spirits whispered in my ear today and gently led me through the gate of this very special garden. I will try to carry its energy in my heart and consciousness when I am outside the walls,” and “My daddy moved his finger today,” and “Places like this make me feel like everything will be OK.”
Tom Stoner’s inscription in my review copy of Open Spaces Sacred Places was “Be inspired!” And I truly am, every time I look at the book and think about TKF’s amazing work. But we can learn a lot from this book, too, and I’m sure I’ll refer to it again and again. For anyone who has waged the uphill battle of getting something built, especially something that involves the collaborative process with designers and community members and administrators and red tape and bureaucracy, these stories provide something of a road-map, hope, and yes, inspiration.
You can learn more about Open Spaces Sacred Places at this site: www.openspacessacredplaces.org, where you can also buy the book. And for those of you who missed the earlier blog posting about TKF, click HERE for a nice article by Anne Raver of The New York Times about the organization.
More Useful Research on Landscapes for Health
October 23, 2008
The articles from InformeDesign have been coming fast and furious (they send weekly research summaries), so instead of listing each one separately, I’m listing three at a time today (as always, click on the colored words to connect to the links):
New Study: Childhood Memories and Environmental Stewardship
October 20, 2008
- Previous studies have shown that positive childhood experiences caring for nature influence environmental stewardship in adulthood. The reasons these experiences lead to environmentalism has not been thoroughly investigated.
- Free play in natural environments with a variety of features (e.g., puddles, mud) provides limitless first-hand learning experiences (Reed, 1996) that encourage continued interaction with nature, teach children about how nature works, and demonstrate the human capacity to impact nature.
Paul Newman Knew It
October 6, 2008
Ever since I can remember, my father and I have spent part of this holiday taking a walk in the woods during the break in High Holy Day services. We will go on our walk this afternoon together, but this morning I went for a short one on my own, marveling at the beauty of the brilliantly-colored falling leaves, the light shining through the hemlocks and playing on the river, the sound of the birds and the wind in the trees, the shock of green ferns amidst yellow and orange and buff, the smell of loam and leaves and green and fresh air. There is little as life-affirming as a walk in the woods.
Guest Book Entries from Emanuel Children’s Hospital Garden, Portland, OR
October 5, 2008