Natural Playscapes

Family Center’s Natural Playground

DG2 Design and JEMA designed Clayton School District’s, Early Childhood Family Center’s Natural Playground Master Plan. The “playground” began as an outdoor space for nature-based curriculum, play and imagination. Eventually, the scope of the project expanded to include music and art, with areas for play and physical education, thereby creating a multi-curriculum based outdoor learning environment that is accessible to all. Opportunities for physical education are available throughout the playground in the form of tricycle paths, logs for jumping and balancing, and mounds and boulders for climbing.

Every element within the playground is designed to be multi-use and encourage firsthand interaction between the children and nature. The playground is divided into quadrants with a network of paths to connect each area. Along these paths are “nodes”, or gathering spaces with themed activities such as music, art and gardening. These spaces are meant to encourage children of all ages to exercise their imaginations and physical skills. Further, berms, hills, moguls and willow structures will create a powerful invitation to play.

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Lemay Family and Child Center

DG2 Design is working with the Lemay Child & Family Center to design a new natural based playground that aligns with the Center’s goals to provide early education and support for families in a diverse, nurturing environment. Their existing playground had old equipment that was no longer safe, is not accessible for children, of differing abilities, and has water that does not drain well off of the property, leaving it unusable at times. With nearly 3 acres of land, DG2 Design is creating a distinct playground with areas for each age group, plus it will include gardening, natural features, bike and stroller paths, sports fields, shade, and much more. The Outdoor Learning Center will be the next step in the larger multi-year plan to improveour facilities so that the children have the quality learning environment they deserve. In addition to fundraising documents and hosting an open house, DG2 is working with the Center to apply for multiple grants.

Key Elements of the Outdoor Learning Center

Physical Development, Social and Emotional Development, Creativity and the Arts, Literacy and Language Development & Critical Thinking and Cognitive Development

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Raintree School

Rain­tree School is a private kindergarten and preschool & Missouri’s FIRST FOREST SCHOOL. Inspired by the Reg­gio Emilia approach, a For­est School com­mit­ted to help­ing chil­dren gain aca­d­e­mic breadth while main­tain­ing their love of learn­ing through project-based explo­rations. DG2 Design helped Raintree design their new NATURAL PLAYGROUND and FOREST. Photos by Triple R Photography.

For many schools a “school play­ground” no longer fits the bill — the swings with rules about direction and the slides you’ve been instructed to not climb up. “School play­grounds”, after all, mimic nature’s play­ground, but rather poorly. Why use monkey bars when real branches are full of crags and moss and tex­ture? Why use stairs when boulders will get you there? Why have a plas­tic play­ground molded to look like nature when Mis­souri is full of wood­land and prairie? DG2 Design collaborated with HKW Architects to ensure the building and playground had a seamless design.

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