Parallel session 3.3: Connecting green and play

Wednesday, 5th October 16.00 – 17.30, Syndicate Room E207 in Bedford Tower at Dublin Castle

The green ludicity or how to (re)connect children to nature in contemporary urban projects?
Roxane van Ginneken, Municipality of Forest, playful meshe,  Brussels

Green play is a way to address climate change through contemporary urban projects. In this presentation, we will develop the theme of nature and play with the European capital Brussels in Belgium as a key site. Firstly, we will study the place of playful links in the city, allowing for the creation of urban connections for children but also in an intergenerational way. Secondly, we will analyze the place of urban schoolyards to create refreshed spaces, more pleasant to live in on a daily basis, versatile and better shared by all. The objective is to (re)connect children to urban nature and to include these spaces in ecological corridors with the current environmental constraints.

Back to Nature. Playfully Reconnecting the Child
Beth Cooper, Timberplay / Richter Spielgeräte, United Kingdom

Three play spaces from across the Northern Hemisphere form the basis from which to explore how playful, child-led design can mitigate a loss of free, wild play and can support children in connecting with nature. Conversations are ongoing as to the benefits for everyone of connecting with nature and nature’s restorative effects. At the same time we are aware of growing numbers of people impacted by alienation from nature, an increase in mental health disorders, physical ill health and talk of concepts like Nature Deficit Disorder, all are more impactful in childhood. There is an increase in disconnect between children and young people and natural rhythms and phenomena. Play can support the whole child in connecting to the natural world and finding their place within it. We address the possibilities of sharing the child’s journey experiencing nature in a respectful way as an adult, as their accompanying caregiver or as the designer of the spaces they inhabit. Thoughtful design can support all children regardless of their economic background, ability or heritage to connect with nature and these three case studies show how the balance between created space and natural elements can be an antidote to this disconnection.

Vegetation and natural elements in schoolground design – children’s recommendations
Gaja Trbizan, Drustvo Pazi!park, Slovenia

In this lecture we will present recommendations on the use and value of vegetation and natural elements in playground design. The guidelines are based on children’s comments gathered from workshops conducted in primary schools of Ljubljana in a 4-year period and are tackling the design, structural, learning and play value of vegetation as perceived by children themselves. It is important that children forge a lasting bond with their natural environment at an early age, because that will shape their attitude towards nature also when they grow up. Children who discover nature through play maintain this bond and respect of the natural environment also as adults, and are more likely to protect it. Growing up in an urban environment with a limited access to natural areas and lack of time to play outdoors contributes to a lifestyle disengaged from the natural world. Schools are places where children spend a great deal of time, not just learning but socializing and playing. Therefore, schoolground design should be well-thought-out so it allows multiple activities and contact with nature in a limited space. In children’s comments nature is mentioned more often than other play equipment. They mention different plants and activities connected to them. They like to climb trees and jump from them, competing over who dares to jump from higher branch and who will jump farther. Shrubs are convenient hiding places and private spaces for chatting. Girls practice handstands, cartwheels and other gymnastic elements on the lawn because it is soft and falls do not hurt. Children observe the textures, colours and patterns of vegetation and experience it with different senses. They use it as a material to design hiding places, as an element for sitting and lying down, and for imaginative play. Nature is multifunctional, it has greater play value and provides for a more diverse and unstructured play than any play equipment. Knowing how children use vegetation and interact with nature can contribute to better schoolground design, more time spent outdoors and a better attitude towards nature.

Augmented and Digital Animals in Children’s City Life
Anton Nijholt, University of Twente, Netherlands

Animals are part of urban life. Caring for animals teaches a child to be accountable and trustworthy, it learns about responsibility, and it learns about interpreting responsive behavior and interaction. We have wildlife and urban wildlife animals as well. There are many reasons to familiarize children with wildlife: learn about the world, evolution, animals, their ecological role, their extinction, et cetera. Presently, especially during pandemic times, for various reasons, we have seen that wildlife is entering urban environments.
Virtual animals can become part of the children’s city life. In this presentation, we survey how in various projects virtual animals have been introduced in urban environments. From a technology point of view, we look at examples of video-based augmented reality, such as the virtual mirrors at railway stations and museums, augmented reality on smartphones, and augmented reality displayed on street furniture, e.g., billboards, holographic animals, and robotic animals. Digital animals cannot replace real animals. But digital technology allows children to play and interact with animals that they hardly or never physically encounter in their daily lives and their interaction with real animals can be enhanced from an educational and entertainment point of view.