A note from Nancy...
May 6, 2013
Greetings on this spring day!


If you're like many of my clients (and me) you have spring fever and are soaking up time outside in the garden.  It is thrilling to see plants leafing out and blooming, hear the birds singing and feel the warm sunshine. 


I'd like to welcome new subscribers from the Early Childhood Outside Conference, the ACE Green Living Expo and the NoVA Outside Green Schools Showcase. It has been a busy spring so far, and I am honored to have had the opportunity to exhibit at those events, where I got to meet many wonderful teachers, students and homeowners, all dedicated to the idea of reconnecting to nature through beautiful landscapes. 


It was impossible for me to choose just one plant to feature this month when spring flowers are busting out everywhere-- so read on about two lovelies you will surely want in your landscape-- fothergilla and phlox. 


It is testing time in our schools, despite the way the outdoors is calling to all of us.  So check out a report below-- on how outdoor time can improve test scores-- and share it with your PTAs and principals. 


And finally, I am thrilled to present the latest EarlySpace natural playspace, completed just days ago on a hill in DC. Check it out below...


Happy Gardening!



PS: Please get in touch if you're ready to start transforming your home landscape or schoolyard. 


PPS: Please use the button at the bottom and share this newsletter with friends who might be interested! (Each month comes with informative and fun-to-read news about great native plants, children and nature; cool, sustainable projects you'll want to know about and more!) 

Testing Time...
It's that time of year again-- SOL's, AP exams, finals. Our school children are in the throes of testing.  There is a lot to say about this subject, and not enough room here to say it, but I do want to share this one important report: "Back to School, Back Outside", by the National Wildlife Federation.  The report tells us that as of 2010, US children are spending an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes indoors, using electronic media. Regular outdoor time is down to
minutes a day
The report describes two key benefits if schools play a more active role in outdoor education and time for children.  First, "outdoor education and play time helps students become high-performance learners with skill sets that will be with them throughout their lives".  And, second, "outdoor education and play time helps students perform measurably better on standardized tests"
And finally, in a recent Gallup Poll, the majority of principals surveyed know about the research described above, but supervision problems at recess are stopping many schools from acting on what they understand that kids need.  Yikes!  We need to show our principals a lot of support to find the resources (and courage) it takes to provide children with this vital outdoor time. 

The spring flowers of Fothergilla look like creamy white pompoms, and the fragrance is like sweet honey.  
A relative of Witch Hazel, which was featured last month, Fothergilla has similar, strikingly beautiful fall color.  This is what I love about so many native plants-- they are easy to care for and often they shine in the garden for more than one season.  Bees and other pollinators love the flowers and you'll love them too!
The fragrance of Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata) wafts through the garden and lets you know spring is here.  This shade-loving perennial is perfect under a Dogwood or Silverbell tree, which are blooming now too.  It comes in shades of white, but I think the blue is the softest, loveliest color. Once planted, Woodland Phlox will spread to form a beautiful colony.   It is sometimes called Sweet William and provides sweet nectar for pollinators. 

A testimonial   

Before the renovation, our playspace was not inviting and had few opportunities for discovery and exploration, but I knew it had the potential to become a very magical playspace. 

Working with Nancy was a delightful experience.  The teachers had the chance to share their hopes and dreams about the space.  Nancy incorporated their ideas and designed a space that allows the children to explore in a natural, organic way.  

Now that it is complete, every part of our new space inspires creative play, engagement, and the movement opportunities that children crave.  There are no bright, colorful play structures, instead there are inviting, natural elements. 

The organic flow of the playspace is esthetically beautiful, but more importantly it is a magical place for many wonderful adventures and fun activities to blossom.  

It was a pleasure working with Nancy and such a growing and learning experience for me.  After spending most of my teaching years in very urban schools, having the beauty of this nature-filled space is an amazing dream come true. 


Stefania Rubino

Director of Pre-primary at Lowell School, Washington, DC

A Hillside Natural Playspace

In any design project, the space itself provides inspiration and responding to the space is what creates a unique sense of place.  Sometimes finding the inspiration is a challenge, but I do believe that spaces speak, and this steeply sloped site was clear about what it needed to be.  

Transforming the hillside into an inviting space for preschoolers was the goal, and it was obvious that the theme should be all about moving up and down in different ways. 
As a space that would serve children ages 2 to 5 my goal was to provide a variety of graded challenges-- different ways to move and use the space that could be mastered by children over time.  
There are two main areas-- the steep hillside, and the flat space at the top of the hill.  

On the hill, children can slide down on two different slides, descend on a fallen tree, and climb up or down on a stump scramble, a boulder climb or use an alternating-leg-staircase.  
The fallen tree is special to the school because it was a beloved Maple that was slated to come down to make way for a building expansion.  It was some consolation that a large portion of the tree would have a second life on this playground.  The tree removal included careful consideration of which parts to save so that it would fit the new space and provide challenging climbing options for the pre-primary children.

At the top of the hill, a seldom used asphalt track was expanded and embellished.  

A "Shunnel" (shed + tunnel) is a riding through place at outside time,  and at the end of the day, children can park their riding toys inside.  The goal is to make clean-up fun, and thus life is easier for teachers!   

And finally, a new playhouse was added near an existing one, along with a log table and stools. Props like these support creativity and language and lots of good pretend play. 
The teachers and administrators at Lowell were a joy to work with.  I am so looking forward to watching and learning from the children as they use this space.  
The crew at Green Earth Landscaping made this project happen -- from hauling huge heavy boulders up the hill, to carefully hanging those shunnel doors, to playfully entertaining children with the backhoe.  I am so grateful to have such an awesome team!
Stay tuned for Phase 2,  coming next year, which will include a hillside water feature and a multi-level sand play area!   
About EarlySpace
Nancy Striniste has transformed acres of schoolyards and home landscapes from lawns to habitats, lush with native and edible plants, rainwater harvesting and sustainable materials. She has worked with hundreds of teachers and parents throughout the mid-Atlantic and beyond sharing ideas and strategies for connecting children to nature.  Her designs have brought rich and beautiful natural play and learning spaces to dozens of public and private schools and early childhood programs.
 To see her work, visit:  www.earlyspace.com

If you are ready to start creating the landscape of your dreams,

 contact Nancy at info@earlyspace.com to schedule a free call.

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Nancy Striniste is a landscape designer and former teacher. She specializes in creating natural play and learning spaces for children, sustainable landscapes for homeowners and teaching teachers about how to use outdoor space. Sign up for a FREE subscription to Nancy's Earth-friendly Landscape E-news filled with creative ideas and useful tips at  www.earlyspace.com