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Do you know a child who loves to stomp in the mud, look under rocks to see what crawly creatures might be living underneath or challenge themselves to walk the tightrope of a fallen log?
Children will have a unique opportunity to express their creativity and engage their sense of wonder at an upcoming outdoor play workshop in March.
A loose parts play date and open house will be happening on Saturday, March 7 from 10 a.m. – noon at Cousins Park on Beach Avenue and 6th Street in Peachland. The event is being hosted by Okanagan College, Outland Design and New Monaco. It’s part of an ongoing research project that will help inform the creation of new play spaces unlike any other in the region.
At the workshop, children will have the opportunity to discover and explore playing with loose parts – a trending concept in the world of unstructured outdoor play. Feedback will be gathered from children and their families throughout the session on the types of materials, activities and spaces they prefer.
Residents will also have an opportunity to provide feedback on the parks designs for the New Monaco community, that incorporate these outdoor natural play elements.
“Research tells us that when children visit traditional play spaces, they spend about six minutes on the play equipment,” says Dr. Beverlie Dietze, Director of Learning and Applied Research at Okanagan College. “They spend more time playing with the gravel and the items that are underneath the play apparatus.
“With a natural play space, children will spend as much time as you allow them. There are options for them to pick up rocks and look at the bugs underneath. They can challenge themselves to balance on a tree stump or walk the length of a log. The play opportunities are absolutely open and expansive. When you add in man-made materials that we call loose-parts then all of those pieces require the child to do something, to actively engage in the play.”
The workshop in March will build on feedback that has been collected over the past four years as part of a $91,000 research project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and neighbourhood developer New Monaco.
The goal is to gain insight on the proposed designs and to discover if any further elements that spark children’s zest for curiosity, learning, and development should be incorporated into the parks of New Monaco. Using a research tool developed by Dietze, data on how children use the loose parts in their outdoor play will be compiled and relayed to the developer and landscape architects at Outland Design Landscape Architecture.
“Our vision for the community is to be the healthiest place to live in Canada,” explains Mark Holland, Partner, New Monaco. “We’re very excited to be actively involved in this applied research project with the ultimate goal of understanding how we can create a new type of play space that is innovative, supports healthy lifestyles for children and their families, and goes beyond what people expect to find in a traditional playground.”
“New Monaco is committed to working with Peachland to attract more families to this great community and make it the best place to grow up in the Okanagan.”
The result of the open house will be to incorporate feedback from the children, families and local community into the parks designs for the New Monaco community. Enter Fiona Barton, Principal of Outland Design, who has been working on the designs over the past months.
“Our company is focused on re-thinking the way in which play spaces are designed and support optimal child development. It’s hard to imagine how the next generation will become stewards of the natural landscape if they haven’t actually spent time in it,” says Barton, who has worked with Dietze since 2016 to train her staff in the principles of early learning and outdoor play spaces.
“We look forward to embracing the challenge of applying natural outdoor play principles from the research work and incorporating those into a municipally managed, public park system that is beneficial to families in the Okanagan.”
Dietze hopes the project will serve as a model for public parks and play spaces in other areas.
“It would be wonderful to see what we learn with this project and help others create innovative play spaces in the Okanagan, across the country, and around the world.”
Joining Dietze and Barton at the workshops will be a team of designers and educators to support children in playing with loose parts. The outdoor play opportunities are free but families are encouraged to register in advance by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.