Administrative Executive Editor
With society continually advancing with new technology and everyone trying to be on the cutting edge, the Keene State College Child Development Center is going back to the basics with their new natural playground.
Director of the Child Development Center Ellen Edge said the idea for the new playground was to move away from structures and fuel the imagination.
“We want it to be less reliant on equipment, because children want to push the limits of equipment anyway,” Edge said. She said they wanted to have a more open environment for the children to play and create.Edge said natural playgrounds seem to be the latest trend in playground designs.
“The interactive features create a new kind of play,” Edge said. “Children prefer windy paths and places where they can run or peddle.” Edge commented it’s better for children to run around and play on hills and natural elements than to wait in line to jump around on a structure. Edge emphasized the impact Assistant Director of Physical Plant – Grounds, Bud Winsor had on the project. “We didn’t have the funds for the initial plan,” Edge said. “Then Bud [Winsor] said he could do it.”
Edge commented on how beautiful the KSC campus is and credited Winsor for that. “Bud [Winsor] brought his creative eye, which we were more than happy to have,” Edge said. “So it feels more like our playground we created together with Keene State College.”
Winsor said they took some of the pieces from the original plan, and built it as they went. “The original plan had water features, but that comes with a big price tag,” Winsor said. He commented Frank Lucius, the contractor in-charge of tearing down the former Campus Safety building, Grafton House was a big help. Lucius contributed time and miscellaneous equipment to the project when they weren’t being used at Grafton House.
Edge said the need for a new playground came out of the CDC’s accreditation process back in 2006. She said a safety inspector found some safety issues with the playground and required modifications be made to the facilities.
Edge said she was initially inspired by the work of Robin Moore, which she first saw at a workshop at the University of Massachusetts. Moore is an architecture professor at North Carolina State University, who also works with Studio MLA Architects out of Brookline, Mass.
Edge said she met with various companies, but MLA Architects were the only ones with a background of child development. She said that was the deciding factor to the CDC’s decision to work with the company.
Edge said the original plans have not been fully realized yet, and the playground is still a work in progress. She said this was just the first stage, and they will be adding to the playground over the next several summers to complete it.
“We are going to sit down and review the architects’ original design, and decide what we want to move forward with,” Edge said. Edge commented the playground not only returns to the basics of nature and imagination, but aligns with the college’s sustainability goals and makes the campus even more beautiful.
Edge said offering the children more opportunities to interact with the natural world, the more they will grow to love nature, and when they grow up they will be more likely to make decision to protect nature. The idea that the children are more free to invent with the more natural play facilities is already seen at KSC.
“The kids seem to spread out and create more,” Winsor noted. He commented the children have already done things with the new facilities they hadn’t even thought of.
“We have at least one thing to be proud of,” Winsor said. “We took a step further with the flower beds, and the kids use them as a maze and chase each other around them.”
Winsor said the team working on the project over the summer finished just in time for the start of the new school year, and the results were worth the hard work.
“It’s really great to see the kids play on it, so that’s the really the reward,” Winsor said.
Ryan Glavey can be contacted at