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Outdoor Educational Wonderlands

for Special Needs Organizations

Our services do not include electrical, plumbing, or excavation. Clients may retain these services from other professionals. The photographs depicted on this website are for illustrative purposes only. 

"The rock doesn’t know what happens to the ripples in the pond"       J.P. Lynde

Our motto: Design, Build, Educate & Grow

Our mission: No Child Left Indoors!

Our mandate: All Abilities Included

Outdoor Educational Wonderlands

 

We design and build Outdoor Educational Wonderlands (OEWs): Vibrant and engaging outdoor environments where people of all ages and abilities can lose themselves in a state of exploration & investigation. OEWs include: gardens, greenhouses, fitness forts, educational playgrounds, chicken coops, observatories and so much more. You dream it, we build it! 

 

Design for All Abilities

We use universal design concepts to address a broad range of challenges experienced by the special needs community. Including: Neuromuscular, Cognitive, Sensory, and Communication issues; Visual and auditory impairment; Difficulty with fine and gross motor skills and Hypo- or hyper-sensitivity to sensory stimuli. Our goal is to create beautiful environments that are peaceful, supportive and encourage skill-building.

Beyond Structures

 

At Sprout we don't see ourselves as a traditional build company. We are designers and educators on a mission using every tool in our belt to affect change! We won't ever leave you with a structure wondering what to do with it. Each structure will have a purpose and a meaning - one spoke in a wheel towards consciously creating an environment and an experience that is fun, therapeutic, healthy, educational, even vocational. 

 

Workshops & Staff Training

 

Our intention is to maximize impact. Therefore, with every structure and build, we pair our Outdoor Educational Wonderlands with staff training, and fun, hands-on workshops with an eye towards skill-building, promoting health and preventing disease. We use nature (chickens, worms, flowers and veggies) as a practical tool to teach about understanding our food sources, healthy eating, environmental stewardship and preparation for meaningful jobs in the new green economy.

Garden Benefits

  • Gardening activities help to increase fine and gross motor skills, body awareness, and motion 

  • Connecting children with each other: Gardening encourages one-on-one interaction

  • Gardening is an equalizer - children learn that despite their different abilities, in the garden they have more in common with each other than they may have realized​

  • Provide a calming connection to nature and the broader world

  • The garden can be a great getaway from a rigid classroom and structured therapies and can provide an opportunity to have fun

  • Plants are a great way to get kids familiar with different textures and scents of plants in a controlled manner

No Green Space?

Our specialty is working with clients in urban settings that have little to no obvious green space. We work in classrooms, vacant lots, school parking lots, on walls & rooftops. Experience has taught us to be crafty. Let us help you find a solution. 

 
Budget?

Even a small budget can make a profound impact. A program can be as simple & inexpensive as a workshop where students use old soda bottles to create mini windowsill gardens.

Or as comprehensive as the design and build of a year round greenhouse. 

Funding?

We work with passionate educators and parents, non-profits, grants, private funding, PTAs, PTOs and grassroots initiatives like bake sales. 

Impact
  • Increase fine & gross motor skills and motion

  • Therapeutic Benefits

  • Green Job Readiness

  • Encourage 1-on-1 interaction

  • Understanding Food Source

  • Healthy Eating

  • Calming connection to nature

  • Community Centers

  • Senior Care Centers

(Select your area of interest)
  • Rehabilitation Centers

  • Private Homes

Universal Design in the Garden

Sources:

Location
Design Considerations

Noise from air conditioning compressors, adjacent traffic, and high-pitched or humming noise can be overwhelming, especially for those who are hyper-sensitive to sensory stimuli.

 

​Solutions
  • Choose a garden location with the least amount of distractions possible

  • Consider landscaping around it to create a comforting nook

  • Build a greenhouse - a year round growing space - and control the environment as much as possible

Accesibility
Design Considerations
  • Neuromuscular challenges

  • Visual and auditory impairments

 

Solutions

Build a garden that includes all abilities

  • Universal / wheelchair accessibility

  • Garden beds for visual impairments

Safety & Security
Design Considerations
  • Prevent children from straying outside the area’s boundaries
  • All children at some time explore their world through taste

 

​Solutions
  • Create a 5’-0” minimum height fencing that cannot be easily climbed to prevent children from straying outside the area’s boundaries, ensuring safety and security    

  • Create a 'green' fence

    • Another step to help designate the garden area as a controlled, comforting, insulated, green oasis filled with natural beauty

    • Attract butterflies, bees and birds for observation

  • Avoid specifying materials, including toxic plants, that are easily ingested

Soothing Areas
Design Considerations

A space to escape and re-center when overwhelmed, or to watch activities from a distance until comfortable enough to participate.

 

​Solutions

Provide soothing areas:

  • A bamboo tunnel

  • A low growing tree to shelter beneath

  • A fence panel with viewing holes

  • "Green Friends" to pal around with

  • Provide hammocks or hammock swings - for a sense of comfort by being held tightly and soothed by the swinging motion

Photo Sensitivity

Design Considerations
Spaces that shelter those who are photosensitive
 
​Solutions

Provide plenty of shade

  • Trees

  • Shade structures

     

Garden Setup
Design Considerations
  • Eliminitate the feeling of crowding

  • Consider those who are sensitive to textures and bright light

  • Provides a proper surface for people with mobility issues

  • Make visually-impaired persons aware of the edge of the path 

  • Children with ASDs are uncomfortable with change. 

  • Unpredictable or changeable elements such as furniture locations, for example, can be disconcerting for persons with ASDs.

​Solutions
  • Provide smooth, wide pathways and surfaces

  • Use smooth non-glare paving

  • Provide a clear edge along pathways

  • Provide transitions between spaces/activities

  • Include elements of consistency, such as a hedge, stone wall, or an element that creates a comforting, predictable pattern

  • Provide fixed and non-fixed elements: Create a sequence where the fixed element is experienced first for a sense of security, and further on, areas that are changeable to create a challenge that children have the opportunity to overcome

  • Allow individuals to orient themselves before experiencing something new.

  • Provide space between different activities & an orientation map

Signage
Design Considerations
  • Surprises can create anxiety in persons with ASDs

  • As up to 50% of persons with ASD are nonverbal. Some children with autism use a picture exchange system (PICT) to aid their communication with family members and teachers.

 

​Solutions
  • Provide orientation maps that illustrate a layout of the garden or play space so users know where they are and what to expect next

  • Provide plenty of visual aids (clear, simple pictures) and signage

  • Include Braille for visually impaired persons and sign language skill-building to encourage communication between verbal and nonverbal people

Activity Design
Design Considerations
  • Help generalize skills to a real-world environment. It is important to provide a level of comfort but also to encourage kids to overcome common fears.

  • Build upon skills and comfort levels slowly

 

​Solutions
  • Build in challenges. For instance: sequence a concept, such as transition areas, so they gradually become shorter, or gradually present more directional options for the user

  • Sequence activities to introduce elements and ideas. 

Three steps to transform your space into an Outdoor Educational Wonderland

(Similar steps apply to all client types)

  • ​Set up an on-site visit with Ilona to:

    • Discuss your goals

    • Evaluate areas of desired impact (math, health, behavior, art)

    • Assess the space & take measurements

  • Analyze DOE, DOB and other requirements

  • Pick from our imaginative list of wonderland possibilities including structures and workshops. Or dream up your own idea and let us build it!

  • We will process your wishlist into a rendered design consisting of various components.  

  • Optional to build all at once or to stagger in phases

Step 1: Design

Garden Mazes

Fitness Forts

Green Fences

Observatories

Green Walls

Garden Beds

Greenhouses

Chicken Coops

Compost Systems

Educational Playgrounds

Interactive Musical Instruments

Step 2: Build

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  • We are fully insured, licensed & bonded contractors
  • NOTE: If you wish to prepare your participants for jobs in the green economy, we are happy to integrate them into the entire design & build process
  • Participants learn to:

    • Navigate the DOE/DOB permit process - where apliciable.
    • Interface with design & structural engineers, electricians, architects etc
    • Become forewomen/men
    • Design & Build, Use Tools
    • Problem solve, Take measurements and use math
    • Discover challenging, fun, meaningful work

Step 3: Educate & Grow

Once the foundation is laid and the exterior is up, it's time to cultivate the interior. 

  • Variety of growing techniques (Conventional, Hydroponic, Aeroponic, Aquaponic, etc)

  • Student Workshops

  • Professional Development

  • Garden-based lesson plans

  • Curriculum integration

  • Garden map & planting schedule for each teacher

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Copyright 2012, 2019                            Sprout by Design LLC    

Green Fence