LSNC’s New Nature Playscape is Open for Visitors

A Community Challenge is Announced as Phased Installations Continue

Located on the northeast side of Ann Arbor, the Leslie Science and Nature Center has always encouraged its visitors to play, learn, and engage with its grounds, and now its newest feature, the Nature Playscape, is open for the public to explore. Visitors are encouraged to enjoy the space as construction continues in phases to complete the full outdoor learning space and to check the LSNC website for updates on progress and availability.

In addition, LSNC announces that Ann Arbor residents Linh and Dug Song have stepped forward to support the project and continue its growth with the addition of a $150,000 gift to fund the water exploration area and a $50,000 matching challenge for the community. This gift comes from the Song Family Fund from the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation.

“We know firsthand with our own children the importance of safe outdoor spaces to explore

together, and we are grateful for so many right here in our community, like the Leslie Science & Nature Center,” said Linh Song. 

“We’re proud to support the Nature Playscape project and we challenge the community to join us to support this incredible outdoor space,” said Dug Song. For the matching challenge, the Song family has committed $50,000 to the project if matched by community funds. Individual donations can be made here.

Photo courtesy of Leslie Science & Nature Center.

The current offerings feature an active playspace including a tunnel, hammock hang, and loose parts exploration area. Future installations include an eagle’s nest, slide and water play zone. Children, and visitors of all ages, are encouraged to climb, jump, crawl, balance, play together and apart, inspiring both independent play and teamwork in a natural setting. LSNC envisions the fully designed space as a gathering spot for imaginative experiences to inspire young minds to respect and understand their natural world.

“By building the playscape in phases, we are able to install areas as we receive funding and allow the public to engage with it and enjoy it as we expand,” said Susan Westhoff, Executive Director, LSNC. “The entirety of the playscape will remain free for everyone in our community to come enjoy together. We believe the Nature Playscape is a huge investment not just in our future, but in the future generations of our community. We see this as a place where children of all ages and abilities can learn and play with all of these diverse areas, materials and features through sensory, fine and gross motor experiences.”

Photo courtesy of Leslie Science & Nature Center.

The Nature Playscape is designed with inclusivity in mind. Accessibility is built in as much as possible, allowing individuals to have access to a majority of the space, and opt-in within their comfort level. The future water play feature has several water pumps, and includes an intentional design element requiring multiple children’s participation to engage enough water to use certain features. This encourages collaboration and facilitates different experiences depending on how many people are using the space at one time. 

“Our Nature Playscape campaign will not only add a significant new, free feature to the

landscape of Leslie Science & Nature Center, but it also helps us continue to serve as a leader in environmental education and nature-based experiences,” said Westhoff. “Years of planning have gone into this project, with community input, volunteer and staff contributions and experts leading us to a final design that fulfills the vision of an expansive and engaging outdoor space. Markedly, this comes at a time when we all have benefited from and can appreciate the value of outdoor spaces. We are grateful to the Song family for their support of the next phase of the project, and ask the community to join us as we raise funds for the next section, an innovative outdoor teaching amphitheater.”

Photo courtesy of Leslie Science & Nature Center.

“This project is exciting and we encourage everyone to join us in making sure the full vision can become a reality, “ said Dug Song. “The matching challenge is meant to drive community members to get involved, and support is needed well beyond this match. We hope to see many people participate through volunteer workdays, through their personal contributions or corporate partnerships, knowing this will be a space for all to enjoy for decades to come.”

Created with input from the community, and creative design from world-renowned nature playscape designer Rusty Keeler, the organic design provides visitors with an evolving space, which will change with the seasons. When creating the playscape, the LSNC team visited a number of playscapes in the immediate area, to ensure the creation of a complementary and not duplicative outdoor space. The project is supported by corporate and community partners including the City of Ann Arbor, Michigan Arts and Culture Council, Toyota and Wacker. Chemical Corporation.

Individuals are invited to have a direct impact on the full completion of the Nature Playscape by contributing financial support through donations here.

Questions or inquiries about the Nature Playscape can be directed to natureplay@lesliesnc.org.

Leslie Science & Nature Center unityinlearning.org/leslie-center  1831 Traver Rd., Ann Arbor 734-997-1553

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