Planning, building and making new spaces is super fun and a great way to engage people. After the build is over, then what? Reasons to activate a space:

  • keep it looking good

  • let folks know it is there 

  • let folks know WHAT is in the space

  • why is the space unique to that property

  • use the space to teach a curriculum

  • what cool things can folks learn from the space

  • how can the space be used

At nature+play designs, we are just as excited to help you learn how to use the outdoor spaces to promote play, learning and well-being, as we are in helping get the features in the ground. Learn about the different ways we can support you and your team.


Tie your outdoor features to curricula goals

School gardens

Engaging students, staff and families with hands on gardens

Play & Enjoy

To support physical activities and wellness

Partner programs

Lots of great ideas to share from other agencies


Supporting ecosystem functions for healthy earth and wildlife


Learn about resources to help learn, grow and enjoy the outdoors



Next Generation Science Standards - Design features to teach to specific grade levels and key teaching points.....for example:

  • Kinderg​arten - insects and parts of the butterfly, life cycle of butterfly

  • K & 1st grades - parts of a plant

  • 1st & 2nd grade - animals in their habitats

  • 3rd grade - soils

  • 4th & 5th grades - climate and ecosystems

  • Hands-on observations, compare/contrast, explore & discover

Reading, writing, language arts - Taking the work outside inspires students in quiet and beautiful settings:

  • Nature journaling

  • Story telling

  • Poetry writing

  • Quiet reading or read out loud to group

Mathematics and Physics - Most every math concept can be taught outdoors, including:

Art - Being outdoors in a natural setting can calm, inspire and support creativity:

  • Displaying art - whether on a permanent frame or temporary/event spaces

  • Painting - all types of media

  • Creating natural dyes

  • Permanent art installation

Educational signs/features - Signs can support teacher lessons as well as self-guided learning, by both students and families after school hours:

  • Learning posts - painted with a variety of curricula themes

  • Aluminum signs - permanent signs designed with images / text 

  • Sign boards - larger boards with etchings, drawings, painting to tell stories and themes

  • Student art projects to add color and character to each project

Career focused / Technical training - identify features and partnerships to support middle and high school students with projects to meet long-term projects and skill development:

  • Project specific design - work with students to identify semester and community service projects

  • Stewardship partners - connect students with local partners/schools that would benefit with assistance on service projects (long term or event) 

  • CTE projects - work with CTE programs/teachers to identify projects and tasks to meet CTE goals

  • Mentorship partners -- connect schools with projects where older students can assist, such as growing plants, building habitat structures, etc.


Play & Enjoy

Calming areas - Places to sit in small groups or individual can provide a place of refuge when feeling stressed:

  • Benches - buddy, conversational groups, individual quite spots

  • Gardens - visiting areas with diverse plantings provide a calming setting and a beautiful view

  • Paths - a variety of path systems to meet multiple goals for de-escalation, exercise and conversations

Working gardens - The use of gardens to support various physical, cognitive and emotional goals can be very successful, such as horticultural therapies:

  • Exercise - gross motor and strength building

  • Cognitive support- engaging in fine motor activities support goals

  • Paths - a variety of path systems to meet multiple goals for de-escalation, exercise and conversations

Play - Active and passive play are incredibly beneficial to people of all ages, especially children :

  • Active play structures - working with vendors in the playground industry to design accessible structures to meet needs of all children

  • Passive & Imagination play - create a variety of natural play elements for imagination play to build, manipulate and create

  • Games - a variety of field and pavement play features

  • Social / Behavioral regulation goals - layout out features to support team building, social connections and behavior calming

  • Loose parts play - develop a kit of materials to use in school play areas, including natural and fun elements inspired to let kids create and build



Environmental improvements - Schools can be great settings to support ecological functions:

  • Trees - both native tree groves and individual plantings to diversfty habitat and species 

  • Habitat settings - add trees, shrubs and perennials to support habitat for birds, bugs and other local wildlife

  • Pollinators - from meadows to flower patches, schools can play a role in supporting host plants for food and life cycle development

  • Green stormwater - while meeting local and state regulations, plantings in engineered features not only filter water but add beauty and habitat

Environmental studies - A variety of features and programs to support hands on learning:

  • Signage - local birds, butterflies, animal tracks and other signs to interpret and introduce users to that local habitat

  • Habitat structures - support workshops to teach bird house, bat house, mason bee house and other wildlife structures

  • EcoBlitz species studies - work with iNaturalist and other programs to understand what species are on each site. Track changes, trends and patterns over seasons, years and changes.

  • Habitat certification - coordinate certifying campus with several regional/state/national habitat programs

School Gardens

Garden spaces to meet every need - There are so many great examples of gardens to meet a variety of needs and goals:

  • Vegetables- raised beds, ground level beds

  • Sensory & tactile - plants to touch, feel, smell, weave and enjoy

  • Butterflies - Butterflies and lady bugs are great introductions to children, so adding locally sourced flowering plants attract wildlife

  • Food forest - teaching kids where their food comes from can be a powerful lesson with easy to grown and maintain plants.


Garden programming - Learn how to use gardens throughout the year to meet curricula, horticultural therapy, social/emotional goals and more:

  • Stakeholder meetings - facilitate stakeholder discussions to determine a good fit for your school programming and features on the campus

  • Recess based programming- short activities to run at lunch recess to encourage use and exploration of the gardens

  • After school clubs - there are several options for after school clubs such as garden, environmental, STEM/STEAM clubs

  • Community work parties - scheduled events throughout the year to use and maintain the various garden areas

  • Community partners - network to meet partners who may be interested in supporting your garden features (donations, service days, events, etc.)




Need a place to start? Regional/state/national progams are a wealth of information and ideas. Listed below are some of the programs that we have used and coordinated with on local projects:



Washington State  


National / International Resources 

Reach out and let's chat. I'll bring the tea and we can talk about how we can help.

PO Box 666

Vancouver, Washington 98666


  • White Facebook Icon
  • White Pinterest Icon

© 2020 by nature+play designs. 

All images are protected by applicable laws.

Proudly created with