READING, Pa. - What may seem like an accident and waiting to be picked up is here on purpose. Re-purposed, actually. Nature leads the way at The Nature Place in Reading, home of Berks Nature and a new kind of playground.
"We know kids spend about one percent, on average, outside, in unstructured free play, so we wanted to make a space where it was easy to make that happen," explained Kim Murphy, the president of The Nature Place. "Kids can take risks. They can climb trees. They can move sticks and rocks and play in our giant birds nest."
What you see in The Nature Play Zone came from the ground its built on. It's been set out for kids to play with, move around and let their imaginations run wild.
"The kids think of things that we haven't even thought of so it's nice," Murphy said.
Like the log bridge someone put at the bottom of the dry river bed.
"I noticed there is a little rock path that somebody put in, but what fun to sit here as a little kids and try to imagine that you're a bird and play in the area," Murphy added.
And perhaps catch sight of another. Blue herons and bald eagles are known to make a visit. You can learn about them inside at The Nature Place, which is next to the play zone. It's a safe spot, where they won't get caught up in the glare. The two-inch etching in the windows is intended to keep birds from flying into them.
The learning center is a teaching tool. The exterior wood is reclaimed from mushroom houses in Chester County, and the stone is from farmhouses across the Northeast. It's surrounded by forest, wetlands. streams and an upland meadow.
A nature-based preschool is slated to open in 2018.
"It's so much more beneficial for the rest of their lives having to be outside rather than inside all the time," said the preschool' director, Anne Muvdi.
"When you're teaching class, you can let nature in and let the kids out all at once," said Michael Griffith, education and watershed specialist.
"I hope kids come here all the time and just learn to take risks and that they use their imagination and that they bond with nature," Murphy said. "That they understand and begin to develop a relationship with nature so that, in the future, they will be willing to protect and conserve it."
It's designed to get your hands dirty.
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