By Lauren Brown
Kindergartners at the university’s Center for Young Children (CYC) will not be getting the working rocket or four-story playhouse they pictured for their playground renovation.
But this spring, they could see a new outdoor stage, native-grass maze, hillside slide and weather station as part of a project spearheaded by Steven Cohan, coordinator of the Landscape Management Program in the plant science and landscape architecture department.
Inspired by the nonprofit Come Alive Outside, which encourages people to spend more time outdoors, Cohan approached CYC Director Fran Favretto asking if she’d like to team up to reinvent its 20-year-old playground.
“CYC has an ideal setup to diversify kids’ activities and also provide resources to bring into the classroom,” he says.
Nestled between Oakland Hall and the Aquatic Center, CYC has a fenced L-shaped playground with two small play sets, teepees, tire swings and sandboxes for the 110 children ages 3 to 6—mostly UMD employees’ offspring—enrolled there.
Small landscaped areas and flowerbeds were installed when the building opened, but Favretto says her busy staff doesn’t have time to maintain them. Cohan’s offer for his students to recreate and tend them and add a much-wanted vegetable garden was a happy surprise.
But what most excited Favretto is that Cohan and his students are incorporating the ideas they culled from the teachers and kindergartners. The children used fat markers to draw their visions for the site, including the rocket with buttons, levers and controls for steering. They insisted on helping Cohan’s visiting students by holding the tape measure, and they peppered the Terps with questions and ideas about the project.
The plan’s highlights include building the stage (but sadly, not an area for costumes and makeup), simple amphitheater and slide into the sloping grass, along with a kid-size zip line and a “secret garden” fed by rain barrels and improved stormwater drainage, courtesy of Facilities Management.
Plenty of open area will remain, Favretto says: “We don’t want to sacrifice the running space—we want to make sure they can still play soccer.”
While most of the individual pieces cost only hundreds of dollars, how many get done this semester depends on funding. Cohan has been seeking grants, hitting up his connections in the landscaping industry for donations and asking CYC parents for support.
Landscape management senior Bernard Botchway said the real-life experience in design has been “awesome.” Now he wants to get started on the installation: “I’m not really into the preparation. I’m like, let’s get dirty!”
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