From Playgrounds to College Campuses
Everyone benefits from being outside, and what better time is there to instill a love of the outdoors and nature than in childhood and young adulthood.
In early childhood, the benefits of outdoor play in natural playscapes are innumerable and not even fully studied. From the benefits to gut health through exposure to natural flora and fauna to the varied stimulation on a developing brain, a child’s experience in outdoor play is about much more than a joyful experience.
Exposure to nature can encourage children to exercise executive function, practice self-regulation, engage their imagination, and make relatively low-risk decisions that will increase their confidence in their decision-making abilities. Being outside can increase their focus, improve their mental health, reduce stress, and more.
Today, children and adults who work and learn in a dominantly digital environment expend enormous energy blocking out many of the human senses in order to focus narrowly on the screen in front of the eyes. That’s the very definition of being less alive, and what parent wants his or her child to be less alive?” —Richard Louv, journalist, author, and Chairman Emeritus of the Children and Nature Network
According to Richard Louv, time outdoors can help children to connect to all of their senses and gain competence in many areas that will benefit them throughout their education and lifetime. Playscapes that involve climbing, for example, help to strengthen a child’s hand muscles — the same muscles needed for handwriting.
As for our teens and young adults, the rate of young individuals with symptoms of anxiety or depression has been increasing at alarming rates. An integrative approach that includes time outdoors can offer a better range of treatment for teens and young adults suffering from anxiety or depression. Studies have shown that nature helps people to reduce stress and recover more quickly from stressful situations.
The Best Playground Designs Start with Listening
At DG2 Design, we believe in listening closely to the decision-makers and those who will be using the outdoor space we will be designing. So in the process of creating playscapes, we ask for input from the most honest, opinionated minds we can: the kids.
It’s an important step to provide the younger generation access to nature, and to help them understand the importance of the environment and to give them a sense of ownership in its restoration and preservation.” —Kristy DeGuire, President of DG2 Design
DG2 visits the proposed site of a project to see how the children are interacting with the outdoor space. They involve them through a Charrette process that includes education and an opportunity to share their thoughts and ask questions. After all, why build a natural playscape that doesn’t fit the play needs of the individuals using it?
College and University Campuses
Similarly, designing a campus that meets the goals of the institution, stays within a project and long-term budget, and provides for the needs of those who will be utilizing the space must begin with a conversation. College campuses are filled with young adults who are experiencing new challenges, facing big obstacles, and celebrating huge wins like never before. Creating a campus that allows and encourages them to spend more time outside when time is their most limited resource is no easy feat. Asking for their involvement will help to guide the design and result in a campus that students want to experience.
Any campus design will need to provide for the needs of the students. Practical considerations such as the need for Wi-Fi and shade under which to work should be balanced with space to unplug and enjoy recreational activities, both structured and spontaneous.
By creating a campus that is environmentally responsible and friendly, a university can also help to encourage consideration and appreciation for our natural environment. We approach campus designs with green infrastructure solutions to bring more awareness to the responsible balance that can be achieved with a smart design and to allow for more sustainable long-term maintenance. Green infrastructure is the perfect solution to provide a connection with nature without losing practical functionality or long-term sustainability.
Facts About DG2 Design
We are an award winning WBE/ DBE planning and landscape architecture firm. Our firm is best known for our inclusive, integrative designs. At DG2 Design, ADA compliance is not an item to check-off on a list of project requirements. Designing for individuals of all abilities and disabilities through seamless transitions from one element to the next is always foundational to the design.
Learn more about DG2’s unique qualifications.
DG2 Design is headquartered in Eureka, Missouri with another location in Ozark, Missouri. We are licensed and insured with the ability to work in Missouri and Illinois.
Our mission is to nourish, restore, and connect our environment and the people living in it.