The City of North Battleford and Battlefords Early Childhood Intervention Program have partnered to provide a space in the Battlefords where children can explore and play in a natural space.
This play space will be the first of its kind in Saskatchewan and offer a wide range of open-ended play options for children that will allow them to be creative and use their imaginations.
Battlefords ECIP have sourced Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds to complete the project, as they have extensive expertise and experience developing natural spaces internationally. In addition, Bienenstock have worked with several First Nation organizations to ensure Indigenous perspectives are honoured in park development.
BECIP has partnered with Kanaweyimik Elders Council to have a teepee erected in the site and a pipe ceremony performed to honour this project. In addition, R. Mann Aggregates Ltd. are donating a large boulder for the park that will be connected to a climbing tree and other elements that will be placed there. Northern Nurseries has provided a donation to the park to add to the purchase of a number of trees, bushes and other plants that are native to Saskatchewan. Battle River Treaty 6 Health Centre are also donating a bench to be placed in the park.
BECIP has collaborated with Navarro Masonry to host an event with families to make 20 stepping stones, which will be placed in the space to use as a pathway to connect the natural spaces.
Finally, NUTEC Embroidery has collaborated with BECIP to develop five signs that will be posted in the site. These include an entrance sign, a thank you to our partners, a teepee description and two signs which will represent “Children Have the Right to Play” and “Children Have the Right to Belong.”
The space will be essential to educating all members of the community on the value of outdoor environments and experiences for children. Natural spaces are defined as spaces with as few man-made components as possible. Using native plants, rolling hills, trees and natural materials (rocks, logs), families will have opportunity to experience this space in a different way.
The benefits of outdoor experiences for children include improving their physical skills and cognitive skills, including critical thinking. Also nurtured are motivation, emotional development, social skills, problem solving, team work, communication, imagination, confidence and feelings of competence. The space also provides many opportunities for risk taking and challenge, connecting children to nature.
It’s not obvious what the intended purpose of a Natural Learning Space is, so kids need to make that decision themselves, and they can come up with a million different ways to use the space and change the purpose every time they visit.