nature play

The Raleigh School Elementary Play and Learning Area

Schematic Design

Lift[ED] returns to The Raleigh School, 5 years after working with the school on their preschool outdoor learning environment, to design the new play and learning area for the elementary school. Our work builds on a foundation of community at the school and extends learning beyond the classroom into the great outdoors. We worked with TRS teachers and administrators to solidify goals and visions into a plan that transforms their existing 2 acre play area from a simple field with play equipment into a dynamic living and learning lab. 

Conceptual Design Alternatives

 

 

Primary Colors ELC - Dowd St.

BEFORE - A typical playground.

AFTER - A multi-functional Outdoor Learning Environment

Primary Colors on Dowd Street in Downtown Durham was due for an upgrade. The client was eager to take their small space and convert it from a typical playground to an Outdoor Learning Environment. Working with small spaces is one of Lift[ED]'s specialties. In this design, we were able to provide a trike track, stage, multipurpose lawn, a storage shed, water play, sand play, two playhouses, and garden areas. The space that a few pieces of playground equipment consumed was more than enough to provide a diverse environment that supports multiple types of play and learning. 

Family Recreation Area, Tuxedo NC

A growing family that loves to be outside together hired Lift[ED] to convert an existing clay tennis court into a recreation area that serves multiple generations and allows them to be together while enjoying their time outside. Taking an intergenerational approach to design, we included a walking/riding track, a multipurpose lawn, a horseshoe pit, a court for games, a fire pit, and a covered picnic area surrounded by a lush garden of native plants. 

Discovery Grove at The North Carolina Museum of Art

The Discovery Grove is a nature based play area to be constructed in the existing woodland behind the Joseph M. Bryan, Jr. Theater in the NC Museum of Art Park. The grove will incorporate universal design principles and sensory garden concepts to engage a broad user population including those with all manner of abilities and mobility constraints. The woodland area where the grove will be constructed is approximately 2.45 acres, allowing ample space for the grove to accommodate visitors. The grove will expand on the NCMA’s mission to explore the intersection of art and nature by engaging directly with underserved populations, families with young and school-age children, formal, and non-formal educational programs. Unlike other areas of the park, the grove will promote interaction, exploration, and manipulation through a series of carefully selected features that exhibit and highlight the relationship between nature and art. This grove is for a variety of types of learning styles but uniquely offers tactile engagement targeted towards heightening the senses, exciting the imagination, and inspiring further discovery.

Primary Colors ELC - Dixon Rd.

Primary Colors is a 5 star licensed child care facility in Durham, NC. The owner, director, and staff are all committed to the idea that outdoor play is a critical component of childhood development. Their renovated outdoor learning environment supports their preschool classroom's curriculum, providing for extensions outside. Kids get to spend time outside, building, balancing, riding, and learning with their whole body instead of being cooped up in the classroom. Outdoor time here is fun and the learning doesn't stop, it gets amplified by nature.

Schematic design by Jesse Turner and Sarah Konradi at the Natural Learning Initiative
Design follow-through, construction drawings, and construction admin by Lift[ED].
 

Durant Road Preschool

Durant Road Preschool is a 5 star licensed childcare center in Raleigh, NC. Our goals for the transformation of their preschool playground into an outdoor learning environment were to create synergy across the site. We kept existing playground equipment in place, weaving a curvy 5' wide path throughout the site. The project includes many new features, but also re-purposed several existing manufactured play items such as playhouses, toy cars, and shade structures. We've taken a space that had all the common playground components and created a unique naturalized outdoor learning environment. We added a water play area with a hand pump, a grass maze, a central lawn, the "trike track", a bridge, and many natural products such as locust balance beams provided by Wild Child Workshop.

Secret Garden

The Secret Garden was made for fun and designed to be functional for all generations of the family. The small stream has a potable water source for playtime and a recirculating source for general leisure. When it gets really hot, the dial gets turned to reveal pop-up sprayers, bubbling fountains, and cascading tunnels of water. The garden fits some of the best children’s garden features into a mere 100′ x 40′ area. Best of all, the “kid’s stuff” is actually just as much fun for the adults. There’s a fort building area hidden in the rhododendrons, a story telling chair (and newspaper reading chair) with a sacred circle of turf, a special bench made just for chillin’, hideouts and secret entrances all around.

That’s the lower area. On the hill behind you can explore the forest through boardwalks and nature trails. There’s a tree deck for relaxing in the upper canopy and a rope bridge that takes you to a slide which is threaded between the trees. Native plants line the trails and accent the hillside, inviting you to explore and enjoy being outside. Just for fun.

Sheep Harney Nature Hut

We worked with teachers, school administrators, and Earlyspace LLC to prepare design and construction drawings for the Sheep Harney Elementary School early childhood outdoor learning environment. The Nature Hut is a special component where kids will be provided with found natural objects to use in their play and learning activities.