05-10-23 | Feature

Delaware Valley Friends School Nature Explore Area

Paoli, Pennsylvania
by Staff

The Nature Explore Area at Delaware Valley Friends School in Paoli, Pennsylvania, was a design-build project in which ThinkGreen Landscape Architecture & Construction was responsible for the design of the playscape, incorporating a nature theme utilizing natural materials in the play elements.
Fieldstone boulders and reclaimed oak logs create a scramble of obstacles that encourages children to interact with natural materials in a playful manner.
The main structure was composed of cedar wood to contribute to the natural materials theme of the playscape. Various levels and components of the structure offer different challenges for the children.
12" to 18" thick wood-fiber mulch was used for the surfacing of the play area. A fabric beneath the mulch allows water to drain through the surface.

The Delaware Valley Friends School is a grade one through 12 school in Paoli, Pennsylvania. The school initially approached Metcalfe Architecture & Design to help conceptualize their new outdoor playscape. Metcalfe then called upon ThinkGreen LLC Landscape Architecture & Construction who collaborated with Metcalfe on a design-build project in the Delaware Valley Friends School called the Nature Explore Area.

The team met with the school's parent/faculty advisory staff to discuss their wants and needs for the project and brainstorm some solutions. As a result of their discussions, they were able to establish a framework for the playscape that would create an area for the whole school to gather. The resulting project involved the construction of a custom fabricated climbing structure along with site grading and nature inspired play elements. The playscape, nestled into the site's large hill, engages children in a variety of ways. In addition to the cedar climbing structure, an embankment slide, swings, and gaga pit provide traditional playground activities; while the boulder seat walls, log balance beams, and stump maze offer active and passive play with a connection to the natural world.
The playscape is built on a steep slope, so the Landscape Architect created a plateau for the play structure and utilized the grade change by connecting the top of the slope to the tower like structures. With the sports fields in the adject area down below, the height of the play structures establishes a unique, far stretching vantage point as children climb to the top. By using the gathering area as an organizing component, they were able to connect both the linear play environment and the upper and lower sports fields.
The vision for this project was to create an outdoor living and learning space for children and to provide them with an alternate way of being in and enjoying nature. To materialize this idea, the Landscape Architect established the goal of creating a unique exterior landscape, thus the playscape integrates natural materials throughout its design. Reclaimed oak logs and boulders varying in size between half a ton to three tons are scattered on top of a wood-fiber mulch carpeting. The journey from one end of the playscape to the other creates unique experiences, accommodating varied interests ?EUR?and personalities.
Another goal involved directing particular detail into allowing the children to experience various levels of challenge and to develop a better understanding of risk taking within their play. In this way, they are given the opportunity to test their physical capabilities. As the children make their way down the slide, through the boulder steppers, and over the balance beam logs to the base of the structure, then climb up to the top level, ?EUR?each different play element presents a different level of challenge.
The new playscape at the Delaware Valley School has been extremely well received by the school and children. With the intention of pushing the envelope past a traditional playground, the school has enjoyed the success of the Nature Explore?EUR?Area playscape.


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