A tree house, a "sensory" garden, a bird-watching hideaway, a small stream and an observation deck for education researchers all of these elements and more will be taking shape around Sigma Sigma Commons at the University of Cincinnati, as construction gets started on a PlayScape outdoor laboratory for young children.
The $401,000 project is a partnership between UC's Arlitt Child and Family Research and Education Center, Cincinnati Nature Center and the UC Office of the Architect. The project is expected to be completed in early June.
Construction fencing is now up for the project, located on the north side of French Hall on the Uptown Campus. The contractor on the project is Mark Spaulding Construction.
Victoria Carr, associate professor of education and director of UC's Arlitt Center, explains that these rare but emerging architectural designs support unique learning experiences in the great outdoors, and also provide a considerably different setting than typical urban playgrounds.
The PlayScape primarily holds appeal for children aged three to five. The UC PlayScape will be open to children who attend the Arlitt Center as well as the Cincinnati community.
"The children will be able to do some gardening. They'll sample edible bushes and berries. They'll crawl through a log fort, enhancing their gross motor skills," Carr explains. "They'll be playing and learning in 10,000 square feet of nature, and we put a lot in it. Plus, it's all wheelchair accessible," Carr says.
Also, to support mastery of motor skills, the PlayScape has rocks, trees, hills and other uneven terrain that's unlike the flat surface of urban playgrounds. There will be an area for them gather and hear and share readings. The design is the concept of landscape architects Robin Moore and Rachel Steele Robinson. Robinson has children who formerly attended the Arlitt Center.
At the heart of it all is an examination of how childre
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University of Cincinnati