3 Steps to Playing with
Outdoor Garden Design Challenges
Are you embarking on creating an Outdoor Classroom? Do you have an outdoor space that is neglected because you are feeling perplexed with possibility and don’t know how to start? Are your stuck in overwhelm?
I am absolutely fascinated outdoor spaces for children and love visiting different schools and touring their outdoor spaces. Every program space is different with their own unique set of challenges. Yet, at the same time, I seem to always find the common denominator to be the children. Children all love the same things and are drawn to certain outdoor areas because of their featured elements and qualities.
Take a peek at our Design Challenge Case Study and learn how to shift your thinking.
“Above All, Try Something.” Franklin Roosevelt
DESIGN CHALLENGE CASE STUDY: Former Pumpkin Patch Raised Garden
- What is the history of the garden space?
- What are the design challenges?
- What are the design possibilities?
- What is the intention of the garden?
- What do I want to teach in this space?
- What will children do in this garden once they get there?
STEP 1: VISIONING: This is an brainstorming exercise that allows teachers to simply put ideas on the table. This is a time to let go, DREAM and believe anything is possible. This list of ideas should be exhausted before moving onto the planning stage. Here are a few ideas for the Former Pumpkin Patch:
- Butterfly Garden
- Zen Garden
- Corn field
- Flower Garden
STEP 2: DESIGN CHALLENGES: This is a brainstorming exercise that identifies issues. It is important to be as detailed as possible here.
- Soil: Rocky + hard = Growing challenges
- Location: Near the road
- Light: Lack of sun on half of the garden
- A “Show Piece” Garden: The first garden everyone sees when they arrive to campus
DESIGN FEATURES: A brainstorming exercise that identifies the features of the garden
- Surrounding features: Outdoor atelier, water
STEP 3: PLAY with each of the challenges. It is important to keep this stage playful and open-ended. It is easy to get stuck here and start making plans for one idea before sifting through each challenge. Have fun!
PLAYING WITH CHALLENGES: EXAMPLES
POSSIBILITY: Could this be a space where children explore the science of soil? Could this be a space to amend the soil with the kids using the “No Dig Newpaper Method”? (picture credit: Edible Yard Works)
2. CHALLENGE: Location: Near the Road
POSSIBILITY: Does this space need a garden feature? Or something in the center to ground it and to work from? For example: Herb Spiral Garden (photo credit: The Owner Builder Network)
3. CHALLENGE: Light: Lack of sun on half of the garden
POSSIBILITY: Is there an opportunity to learn about sun and shade in a garden? Sun-dial? Experiments with planting the same plant in the sun vs. shade or partial sun?
(photo credit: Home and Gardens) (photo credit: Practical Landscape for Gardening)
4. CHALLENGE: A “Show Piece” garden: First garden in view upon arrival
POSSIBILITY: Imagine driving up and seeing Children’s Art in the Garden. Everyone loves children’s Art! What about attracting wildlife with Children’s bird houses? Painting rocks, Making signs? Stepping Stones?
The possibilities are endless. What about a Lupine Garden that connects to the book Miss. Rumphius?
I invite you to change the lense and look at your Outdoor Classrooms design challenges as a tool. What can we learn from challenges. They may be our best teacher. I want to hear from you. What are your garden design challenges? Share and maybe you will be our next CASE STUDY.