Saturday, February 25, 2012

New Benches at the Community House

Benches and log-round building blocks have been added to the small yard behind the Community House.
New benches and log building blocks at the Community House.
Montessori style Spanish classes for children have been meeting in this location and the teachers have requested outdoor seating for picnic lunches and for holding classes outside on pleasant days.  These benches should help.

And since I've noticed the kids having a great time playing with whatever sticks and organic materials they could scrounge around the yard, I thought the log building blocks might fit right in and help facilitate learning and fun.
Rustic log-round building blocks.  
The wood for the benches hailed from trees felled and milled during the construction of Mary Hayes Barber Holmes Park.  The half-round slabs were actually mill waste products, left-overs from ripping the slabs that now form the long White Oak benches at the park.  The benches are rustic but have elegant details.  

The wood rounds were crafted from a dead sycamore tree at Town Lake Park.  Sycamore is not a particularly durable wood in the elements so these won't last forever, but they were essentially free.  If the blocks prove popular maybe cedar round upgrades will be in order, or maybe they'll have run their course.  I'll poll the kiddos when the time comes.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Natural Playgrounds & the Importance of Play

I have several future blog posts in my  mental queue, but when I saw these excellent videos I felt compelled to share them right away. They were produced by Learning through Landscapes and compiled by the wonderful and always inspirational site Playscapes. Those familiar with Pittsboro Parks will recognize the influence of the natural playground movement embodied in your parks.

As a parent of young children I find the conclusions of the videos rather intuitive; what's better than watching one's kids make up games, build stick forts and engage actively with their surroundings?  I love coming across children's creations in the parks. As a playground/ park designer managing fiscal responsibilities, I also appreciate the high play value to low cost ratio of many these features.  Of course, when I was a kid, romping around hundred of acres of woods wasn't "natural play" it was just play.

A loose paraphrase from the first video:  "Psychologists say that play is important in almost every aspect of children's lives.  Play improves social skills, brain development, creativity, supports emotional resilience, physical development, confidence and learning, yet so many schools do little to create the rich play environments and experiences which can unlock these powerful benefits for children."

The second video examines how natural playgrounds in Berlin schools have reduced playground violence and reduced serious injuries.  Because of riskier playgrounds, kids have learned how to better gauge risk and alter their behavior accordingly.  The group making the videos advocates for more natural playgrounds in Scottish schools.  Both videos show many beautiful and fun looking play spaces.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Town Lake Volunteer Day a Great Success

Over 60 people showed to up to help make the Town Lake Park/ Pittsboro Elementary School volunteer day a resounding success.  Special thanks are warranted for both the Pittsboro Skatepark Group and to the folks at Cross Fit True North, both of whom brought sizable groups of eager helpers to join with other Pittsboro Parks supporters and contingents from the Pittsboro Elementary School PTA.  Carolina Brewery provided coffee and the PTA bought pizza and drinks.  A lot of great work got done and I think it’s fair to say that a good time was had by all.
At the end of the day all objectives were met, the trail is much wider, two dump truck loads of invasive plants were uprooted and removed, gorgeous locust benches were built, and park and school supporters got to know each other better. 

Before Clean-Up
Everyone welcomed PBO Elementary Principal Dale Minge's labor saving tractor and trailer.  He was enthusiastic about the prospect of the outdoor classroom and the opportunities it will offer his students. 
Volunteer wrestling invasive plants.  

Outdoor Classroom - After

All photos courtesy of Karinda Roebuck.  Thanks to all who spent a beautiful Saturday helping their community!  

Friday, February 17, 2012

Winter Tree ID Workshop - Feb 19

The Grand Trees of Chatham and Jordan Lake State Park Ranger Robin Kalish have partnered to offer a Winter Tree ID workshop.  This event offers a great opportunity to hone your tree ID skills while enjoying an easy one mile hike at Jordan Lake State Park. 

The walk will be appropriate for kids or families and will begin at 2:00 PM at the Old Oak Trail in the Ebenezer Area A at JordanLake.  The event is free and no registration is required. Be sure to bring appropriate shoes, clothing and water.  Here's a map of Ebenezer Church Recreation Area, and a map of the larger Jordan Lake Recreation Area.

Directions to hike: From Pittsboro: Take Hwy 64 east to Wilsonville traffic light. Turn right onto Beaver Creek Road. Travel about 2 miles on Beaver Creek Rd. Turn Right into Ebenezer Recreation Area. Area A is the first road on the right. The trail begins at a wooden display case next to the parking lot in Area A. Bathrooms are available about half mile away.  For more info email

Identifying trees in winter is obviously more difficult due to the absence of leaves, but this workshop will provide useful tips to narrow down the options rather quickly. Should the workshop inspire a greater interest, there are some great reference books out there.  One I’m familiar with is Winter Tree Finder by May and Tom Watts.  Used copies can be found for as little as $2.  Another classic for general tree ID is the Arbor Day Foundation's What Tree is That?  They offer a mobile version as well.  

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