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Nancy Striniste

Nancy Striniste

Nancy Striniste, MLD is the founder and principal designer at Earlyspace, LLC, a landscape design firm dedicated to creating earth-friendly, people-friendly landscapes. Nancy is a former preschool teacher with a degree from Wheelock College whose passion for creating spaces led her to become a landscape designer. She earned a Master's degree from the prestigious George Washington University's Sustainable Landscape Design Program. She specializes in creating outdoor play and learning spaces that connect children to nature.

Posted by on in Movement and Play

We know, and an extensive body of rigorous scientific research confirms that children who have access to green and natural play and learning spaces are healthier and less stressed, concentrate and learn better, and get along better with peers. Connecting children to nature and creating beautiful outdoor spaces is my passion, and as a landscape designer and former preschool teacher, I know a lot about it.  I love working with schools and early childhood programs to create beautiful, magical outdoor play and learning spaces.

I am well aware that a custom design is just not affordable for some programs.  So, I have come up with a new way to help DC area schools by sharing my expertise in a format that allows participants to plan and build THEIR OWN natural playspaces.... economically.

I am offering a special pilot program this winter that will include a series of workshops, handouts, templates, checklists and more, plus the support of colleagues who are working to change their outdoor spaces. I will provide great materials, ideas for natural playspaces that work, plant lists, planning worksheets, tips for organizing workdays – lots of great information plus answers to participants' questions as they go through the planning process.

I am currently hard at work in my business, creating earth-friendly, people-friendly designs and working with my partners at Green Earth Landscaping to build natural play and learning spaces for schools and children’s programs. I’ve never offered a DIY program like this before, and this may be a one-time series.

Participants in this program will be selected by application, so that I can be sure to work with local programs who are truly committed to making change.  The program will start this winter so that schools will be ready by spring to start working on their space.  I can help provide the outdoor magic  children deserve!

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Posted by on in Movement and Play

The sun was shining. The kids-- lots of kids-- were outside.

It was simple and inexpensive and fun.

Bamboo (harvested in advance from a grateful neighbor's yard)

Kudzu (pulled by kids from the edges of the schoolyard)

A ball of string

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Posted by on in Social Emotional Learning

This post represents a summary of several talks at the recent "International Green Schoolyard Conference".  Although I agree wholeheartedly with all of the ideas described below, I cannot take credit for many of the thoughts.  Because the speakers' positions were so powerfully and clearly expressed, I have quoted liberally from my notes, in an effort to bring these inspiring voices to my readers.

 

Cam Collier of Canada's Evergreen calls it "bubble wrapped childhood"  and says we're killing our kids with caution.

 

By trying to keep them physically safe, we are depriving children of experiences that are essential to the development of a healthy sense of self confidence. It is not possible to create an environment that is free of risk, and in trying to do so, we remove rich play experiences.   In a natural setting with tall trees to climb, pointy sticks, slippery rocks and unexpected holes in the ground we worry that "something might happen".  "I would love for something to happen" says Dr. Petter Akerblom of  Movium and Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala.  Their scrapes should be acknowledged as  proof that "you tried to do something!"

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

Here is the story of a natural building project I love...

 

If you aren't familiar with natural building, it is, basically, using natural, non-manufactured materials to create soul-soothing, sculptural structures.  My favorite is earth-building, which uses in various combinations, a mixture of clay, water and sand, along with a fibrous material (grass, straw or wood fibers) for tensile strength.  A method called "Cob" combines clay, sand and straw and builds with wet bricks called cobs because they are about the size of a cob or loaf of bread.

 

I discovered cob about 7 years ago and tried increasingly ambitious projects (first birdhouses, then a garden wall) before diving into a natural building project that was a pretty life-changing experience for me and for Sandra Redmore.  Sandra is the director of the Clarendon Child Care Center, home of the sweetest pair of playhouses you can imagine.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

From coast to coast, this is school garden tour season!  This week I'm bringing you news of another city where exciting things are happening for kids.  I visited 7 wonderful DC school gardens on a recent rainy Saturday.

 

The theme of this year's tour, which capped off a school garden week full of workshops, contests and events, was to show the diversity of ways that school gardens "take root".  The tour highlighted parent-led, teacher-led, outside organization-initiated and even alumni-driven school garden initiatives.

 

Signage is always an issue in gardens where students and visitors need to understand the intent.  There were a variety of great sign examples on the tour.

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