Making Authentic Nature a Priority Posted on October 26, 2018 by Grace Braxton Share this post A common view from the ground in most cities. It can be hard to find refuge in nature when you are living in an urban environment. According to the United Nations, over half of all the world’s population (55%) lives in urban areas, a statistic that is expected to rise to 68% by 2050. As the world continues to urbanize, it is more important than ever to design sustainable and intentionally authentic greenspaces that invite active involvement in one’s natural amenities. This is especially true for children. A recent paradigm shift relating to the significance of having natural greenspace for children’s play is described by writer Meade Mitchell in his article Authentic Nature is Our Greatest Amenity. This shift involves moving beyond playgrounds and passively observing nature to a more active involvement and interaction with natural amenities. According to Mitchell, allowing children to interact with nature by digging in the mud or building structures out of sticks teaches children that they are part of the environment. Furthermore, it inspires a conservation-oriented ethos that may lead to stewardship later in life. Engagement diagram of neighborhood park outside of Houston. The focus of Mitchell’s article is on a neighborhood park in the greater Houston area. At first, the now-thriving ecosystem was a vacant lot populated by grass and weeds. In order to invite interaction with the environment, stepping stones that lead out into installed ponds and an elevated platform in the mud were essential parts of the park design. Furthermore, interactive signage and a root wall with plexiglass siding exhibiting subterranean life encourage the children to connect with nature in a more meaningful way. Children playing in Sherwood Forest. Working with community members, including children, to enhance the authenticity of converted green spaces is foundational in Grounded Strategies’ mission. In 2017, Grounded paired up with Hosanna House to reimagine an underutilized wooded area in Forest Hills, a project called Sherwood Forest. Youth from the surrounding area helped to install a low-ropes course, mud kitchen and shelter, shaded outdoor classroom and campfire ring, all in hopes of creating a play space for children in the neighborhood to get immersed in the natural environment. Best summarized in the words of Mitchell: “nature play isn’t a postcard – it’s a chance to become absorbed in the natural environment, take some risks, develop skills, and learn how things work.” Sources: “68% Of the World Population Projected to Live in Urban Areas by 2050, Says UN.” Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations, 16 May 2018, www.un.org/development/desa/en/news/population/2018-revision-of-world-urbanization-prospects.html. Mitchell, Meade. “Authentic Nature Is Our Greatest Amenity.” Land8 Media, LLC, 9 Oct. 2018, land8.com/authentic-nature-is-our-greatest-amenity/.