Pashek+MTR designed the outdoor learning environment at the University of Pittsburgh’s child development center (UCDC). UCDC serves 150 children ages 6 weeks – 5 years old. Working with UCDC’s Director and University staff, we developed a design that provided a variety of accessible nature-based outdoor spaces for their early childhood program.
The design is organized around a central play lawn and trike loop, with outdoor learning areas and an outdoor classroom pavilion arranged around it. Babies and toddlers can play and explore a specially designed environment in the shade of an existing tree. The preschool adventure space has more challenging elements for balancing and climbing. The messy project space has a water play area with hand pump and dry stream, a digging area, and space for block play and building. Gardening areas and new trees, shrubs, and grasses woven among the play spaces bring nature into the the outdoor learning environment.
UCDC Director Mary Beth McCulloch sent us the following message after the playground opened: “All of the toddlers and all of the preschoolers got to explore and enjoy the playground on Monday and Tuesday of this week. The smiles, laughter and joy was abundant and it was clear that they love the space and the options for play so far. The way the kids are using the natural landscape is so rewarding. …I cannot thank you enough for bringing our vision to life. Parents are thrilled. We’ve had very specific comments about the design and parents seem to really appreciate the thought that went into it and the outcome.”