Playscape To Harness The Healing Power Of Nature Play

Written by
Adam Bienenstock
on
October 11, 2018

Playscape To Harness The Healing Power Of Nature Play  

This month, our team proudly participated in the ground breaking of a unique natural playground and healing garden at Pathstone Mental Health in St. Catharines, Ont.

“Once complete, this project will be the first, and best, example of a children’s mental-health facility in Canada harnessing the power of nature play for its therapeutic benefits,” says Adam Bienenstock, our Founder and Principal Designer.

“As a company that believes play in a nature-rich environment is fundamental to a healthy childhood, this project is especially important to us because it will support the care and recovery of Niagara Region youth in crisis.”

Pathstone is a vital community resource that cares for youth facing mental-health challenges, and who might otherwise fall through the cracks.

The mental-health facility was inspired to seek our services based on repeated medical research that validates time spent in nature as beneficial to one’s health. These benefits include reduced feelings of stress, fear, anger and aggression, as well as enhanced functionality, attention, focus, and self-esteem.

Playground designer Samantha Hunt-Weeks introduces children from the community to the wonders of nature play.

To  help celebrate the project breaking ground, our team co-hosted a pop-up natural playground with Pathstone on Oct. 2, 2018 that welcomed local children, community members, and stakeholders, and introduced them to the wonders of nature play.

“Children had a blast in the sand and water play area, building forts from tree branches, and leaping across stumps,” says Samantha Hunt-Weeks, a designer on our team who worked on the Pathstone project. 

“The pop-up play space gave them a taste of what’s to come once the trees and shrubs are planted, and the final playground components are installed.”

The pop-up natural playground's sand and water play area was a hit among the children who attended the ground breaking event.

Slated for completion in 2019, Pathstone’s playground and healing garden will cover 10,000 sq. ft. at the facility’s Branscombe Mental Health Centre.

To meet the specific needs of Pathstone clients, our design team collaborated with the health-care facility’s clinical staff, community members, and representatives from the local indigenous community.

As a result, the design includes a number of natural play features, including a sideways tree for climbing, a log tunnel to run through, a garden with local plant material in which to forage, a sand and water play area, and an oversized bird’s nest in which children can burrow.

Our team co-hosted a pop-up natural playground with Pathstone that saw children building forts using tree branches.

The design also includes an indigenous zone with a gathering space, medicine wheel garden, and benches for elders.

Overall, the space will provide Pathstone clients with a stress-free environment where they can deconstruct therapy sessions. It will also accommodate outdoor group therapy, and consultations with clinicians, parents, and caregivers.

“The Pathstone project has been carefully designed for optimum therapeutic value,” Adam says. 

“Once installed, the space will serve to extend, and enhance, the support and care children receive within the walls of the Branscombe Mental Health Centre.”

Pathstone Foundation Director of Philanthropy Kim Rossi with our Principal Designer and Founder Adam Bienenstock.

Thanks to everyone who worked hard to break ground on this amazing project, including the teams at Pathstone Foundation, Mountainview Homes, Rankin Construction, Walker Industries, Peninsula Construction, Desjardins Insurance Agents, Wise Guys Charity, Ontario Power Generation, TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, and Niagara Community Foundation. 

We look forward to bringing this project to fruition in the coming months!

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