Gone are monkey bars and jungle gyms and in its place are playgrounds built with tactile, natural materials, such as boulders, logs, and water features.
“Learning how the environment works is a first step to understanding the big picture,” said DeSantis Enhancement Manager, Luke Smith. “Designing and building an interactive water feature that allows kids to get wet and muddy, and learn how pumps and dams work is a great way to combine learning and play.”
DeSantis recently completed a fully-functional creek, complete with 500-gallon below-ground cistern, recirculating pump, and Mollala River boulders, which was designed to enhance the natural feel of the school’s revitalized playground.
The project took two weeks and is part of a larger master plan by Queen of Peace Elementary School in Salem, Oregon, to create a complete interactive and biodiverse nature space. The 50’ creek has two dams and one pump, and provides students with a fully-immersive experience.
School principal Carl Mucken is a big advocate of nature-based learning and is looking forward to doing more. “Children who play outside are not only healthier but have an increased interest in taking care of the environment,” he says.
DeSantis leads the landscape market in nature play projects and its enhancement team has mastered turnaround and tight deadlines. “Environmental learning for kids is something we all believe in,” said Luke. “And when we can build projects with local materials, using natural quarries, soils, logs, boulders, rocks or surfaces, and collaborate with project partners to create something great – while reducing direct costs and environmental impacts – everybody benefits. Especially the kids. And for us, that’s what matters most.”
Company president, Dean DeSantis, says his philosophy as a parent and as an environmental professional was forged by his own experience with the outdoors. “The book, ‘Last Child in the Woods-Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder’ was a powerful influence on how I raised my own kids and influenced how we, as a company, think about nature and the environment’s positive impact on our community’s health and well-being,” says Dean. “The end game with interactive landscapes, is proof that nature deficit disorder can be reversed.”
DeSantis does not consider its role as a traditional provider of learning but educating future generations about nature is a natural extension of DeSantis’ commitment to healthy places to live, work and play. “Our Enhancement Group has become a go-to for unique, human scale projects,” added Luke. “Repurposing existing vegetation, removing unwanted debris, rehabilitating habitat areas, building nature play spaces, and building walking trails and bike paths promotes our belief that spending time in nature is time well spent.”
To learn more about DeSantis Landscapes’ Enhancement Group, its focus on sustainable solutions, or its ability to revitalize underperforming outdoor space, go to: www.desantislandscapes.com