We love to help clients create affordable, imaginative nature play & discovery areas and outdoor classrooms. Instead of a walled classroom, or a play area dominated by brightly colored plastic & metal, nature play & learning spaces are constructed predominantly of natural materials: stumps to jump on, logs to crawl through, shrubs to hide in, habitats to explore. They can be simple or expansive and can be created anywhere, any size, on any budget. We typically offer a three phase consulting process:
- Free Introductory Site Visit: During a free initial consult, we will visit the space and discuss your goals, available resources, and how your site is (and could be!) used by children & adults.
- Illustrated Site Plan: Next, we will discuss a menu of options, then incorporate the chosen elements into a draft sketch plan by our Wild Child artist or a technical design by a landscape architect partner, based on your needs. This plan can be easily adjusted as ideas evolve. Once finalized, this illustration can be shared with staff, parents, students, stakeholders and potential funders as a visualization of the proposed future site.
- Detailed Planning Guide: We’ll provide a Planning Guide with detailed instructions for building or sourcing each of the features so you are fully equipped to install a sustainable play & learning area customized to your needs & resources. This plan includes CPSC safety guidelines for play element installation & upkeep. The guide will be provided to you in both printed and electronic file format.
- Optional Installation: Many of The Wild Child’s clients have materials onsite (e.g., stumps, etc.) and/or staff or volunteers available to develop & install their play space on a budget in-house with the plans & instructions we provide. Other clients may not have onsite materials or help, but have funding for installation, in which case we are happy to provide great referrals.
- Designer Referrals: If we ran the world, there would be plenty of nature play spaces, outdoor classrooms & kids outside everywhere! But, as a small business we periodically get booked up and may not be able to work within your timeline, or you may need different services, such as a technical design by a landscape architect, or services outside of our geographic area. In that case, we have referrals for some truly wonderful landscape architects & designers (check out our Partners and Resources pages!)
Wild Child Founder Julie Dieguez has presented on a variety of topics to national, regional and local audiences – from large conferences to small community groups. She has presented at the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) Conference, the Maryland Association for Environmental & Outdoor Education (MAEOE) Conference, The Catoctin Forest Alliance Meeting on the Mountain, The Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council Turning a New Leaf Conference, Palisades Community Preschools, the Rooting DC Festival, Audubon Wildlife Habitat Workshops, and more. Topics include (but are not limited to): Backyard DIY Nature Play Spaces; Planning a Nature Play & Learning Area; Features to Encourage Outdoor Play, Observation & Learning; Native Wildlife Habitat Projects; Native Gardens & Conservation Landscaping; and more!
Julie has written for the No Child Left Inside Coalition, Chesapeake Conservancy, The Humane Society of the United States, and recently wrote the article “Nature Playscapes: Bringing the Wild Back to the Child” for Outdoor America magazine. In the Fall of 2017, she completed a comprehensive online School Action Project Guide for the Mid-Atlantic on Bay Backpack with the support of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Association Bay Watershed Education & Training (NOAA-BWET) program, featuring instructions and plans for 100+ greening projects in schools, on school grounds, and in communities. (She also writes an annual holiday letter that has gained great infamy in her inner circles.) If you are interested in Julie potentially penning something for you, please contact us!