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St. John’s Challenges Tradition and Proposes a New Outdoor Learning Environment

Grassy green spaces, intermittent gardens, mulched pathways and wooden boxes filled with water are the new protagonists of the educational spaces proposed by St. John’s Lutheran Church’s Child Development Center.

Based on a design composed by N.C. State’s Natural Learning Initiative, the outdoor learning environment was the Child Development Center’s answer to needing to replace its “tired” playground of 20 years. Instead of removing the old equipment and putting a new version in its place, the center’s leaders decided to go a different direction by creating a more natural landscape devoid of swings or slides”.

Defying tradition can be challenging, but children are the ones who adapt faster. As soon as they entered this new area, creativity led them to the small roofed kitchens and they started to prepare mud cakes.

This type of outdoor environment can have many different beneficial effects:

  • Boost health by increasing exposure to nature.

  • Positive social interaction.

  • Promote physical activity and creativity.

“They think they’re playing, but they don’t realize that they’re learning the whole time,” Ritchie said. “Learning doesn’t stop when you come outside.”


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