Great Nature Places


Urban Wild Adventures – Trip Date: May 31 & June 2 2016

To know your city is to love your city, and Green Spiral has long known Saint Louis to be home to some of the most amazing parks and playgrounds in the country. As the world becomes a more hectic place, nature places and quiet oasis will play an increasing role in the identity of this Great City.

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We have many treasured parks in Saint Louis, but the crown jewel of parks is certainly Forest Park, recently named the #1 Best City Park in America: https://www.thrillist.com/travel/nation/the-15-best-city-parks-in-america.

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World class destinations like the Zoo, Art Museum, History Museum and Muny are easy to find in Forest Park, but for those of you looking to get off the beaten track, here’s a short loop we’re calling the “Crawdaddy Walk”.  It’s a two hour excursion at a very leisurely pace, suitable for all ages, including the stroller set.

2016-06 Forest Park Map

Park and meet your playgroup at the Inclusion Playground next to the Visitor Center, and be sure to pack your own water, unless you like paying $2 for bottled water.  Know that the playground is the first inclusion playground built in the city and there is a secret pollinator’s garden nearby.

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Call up Jean Turney, education coordinator at Forest Park Forever, and have her meet you at the blueberries growing right next to the building. Jean’s job is to help folks learn how to use the park for fun and educational purposes, and she organizes Teacher Academies in the Summer.  561-3287

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Begin your walk between the parking lot and the tennis courts and head for the Mary Orr MacCarthy Bridge, or the “Love Lock Bridge”. On your way, you can have kids pick clover; tie them together to make some clover crowns!  Know that there is a famous bridge in Paris, the Pont des Arts, which has grill-work laden with locks.  Lovers carve their initials into padlocks, affix the locks to the bridge, and throw the key into the river, thereby sealing their love forever.  Looks like we now have a “Love Lock Bridge” in Forest Park, so if you’re a lover, go ahead and affix your lock, it’s the “good kind of trouble” to get into.

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Continue walking along between the creek  and the Boathouse, an area we call “Cottonwood Corridor”.  If you travel through in June, the cotton puffs will be floating through the air like snow; see if kids can catch some cottonpuffs.

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Stop and sample the service berries growing on bushes to your right.  Service berries are important bird food, and edible for humans too.  The service berries ripen in early summer, and get their name from the “olden days” when the ground was too frozen to bury the dead.  When the service berries came ripe in late May, the ground was warm enough to excavate a deep hole, and a service could finally be performed. Thus the name” service-berry.  Thank you Bellefontaine Cemetery for the story!

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Continue following the path until you find the water-play area on your right.  This is a great area to play in the water.  Our creeks and waterways are in bad shape, and questionable for young children for a multiplicity of reasons including sewage and radioactive contamination. But because the River des Peres was long ago used as an open sewer and buried under the park in advance of the World’s Fair in 1904, the surface water in Forest Park today is pretty close to tap water, and the cleanest natural water-play area we can find for kids.  It’s kind of sad that we’ve contaminated so many waterways as a society; therefore, it’s important to educate yourself and thus join the fight to clean up and protect our waterways, if nothing but our own enjoyment. Technically, there is “no swimming” in Forest Park, but Green Spiral happens to know that the park rangers will turn a blind eye towards kids frolicking in the water.  If you do get in trouble, put big tears in your eyes, and say “…but I want my kids to touch a creek at least one time in their lives before they grow up,” and put on your best and most sad pouting face…  Back to the self-guided tour:

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“Crawdaddy Cove” is a great place to fish for crayfish.  Bring a paperclip on a string, and fix some cheese to the open “hook” of the paperclip.  Drop the paperclip in the water, and when a crawfish clamps on to it, hoist the little feller out of the water. We forgot our paper clips, but did find a dead crayfish. By the way, Missouri is a hot-spot for crayfish biodiversity, due to our plethora of magnificent spring-fed rivers.

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“Crawdaddy Cove” is a great area for a family picnic, and you can almost always find frogs, turtles, minnows, green herons and egrets. This is the best place for spying wildlife with kids that we’ve found in Forest Park so far. Remember to bring your hand sanitizer and sun protection. This is a wonderful destination for a picnic dinner in the evening, thus avoiding the “witching hour” at home. On the official map, this place is really called the “Post Dispatch Lake Riffles”, but we think “Crawdaddy Cove” is more romantic.

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When you are ready to depart, walk towards the main road, and over the “Bridge of Swallows”, which has lots of swallow nesting under it.  Continue walking past the Dwight Davis Tennis Center, and ultimately back to your car.  This is about a two hour adventure, conducted at a leisurely pace. Many thanks to talented nature guide Angela Wildermuth for scouting and leading this adventure with her Spring series of adventures called “Urban Wild Adventures”, which takes families on nature hunts at parks and playgrounds all over the Saint Louis area.

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Now here’s your homework:

  1. Count how many creatures you can find on your walk and have the kids make a note in a journal you keep in the car.
  2. See if you can name any plants, or make a crown made of clover.  Simply tie them together as you would make a “daisy chain.”
  3. Come back to the Visitor Center someday and ask for the free ipod walking tour that teaches you about the history of Forest Park, and walks you past the Art Museum and Picnic Island. It’s very well done; many thanks to the Trio Foundation.
  4. Comment below with your observations and improvements on the map and adventure for the benefit of others.
  5. Love your City. Get out and get to know it. To know it, is to love it.
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TripDate: Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Use this Green Spiral Map

along with the blogpost from

“Becoming a Wild Family”

to explore Shaw Park

in Clayton.

2016 Shaw Park Map

This is part of the

Spring Series of

“Urban Wild Adventures”

featuring fabulous nature guide

Angela Wildermuth

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Becoming a Wild Family

We went on our weekly park tour today!

Kentucky has their horse derby 🏇and we have the leaf race 🍃…

… Read on to find out who won…. 😉

We began the tour of Shaw Park at the playground. It’s quite a fun park that tries to draw upon the aesthetics of nature!

Angela always engages the kids right away by telling them what the park has in store for them!  She quickly drew the kids’ attention to the Sensory Garden.


She passed around samples of the plants that could be found in the sensory garden and had everyone touch and smell the leaves and flowers.

She also had a scavenger hunt list for the kids to check off.

Simone was in charge of our family’s findings.

She took the hunt very seriously…

The boys listened and hunted but in a much less organized way.

Some of…

View original post 488 more words

This is Angela Wildermuth. She’s an amazing family nature guide.

Her last name means “wild spirit”.

2016 Angela Notepad

Angela is inspired to take families “into the wild” places at the edges of parks and playgrounds all over the Saint Louis area.  Green Spiral has now hosted two series of playground adventures that we are calling “Urban Wild Adventures”.

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In the wilds of Maplewood…

 

This blog debriefs “Winter Wild Adventures” in hopes of getting kids outside in all kinds of weather. You definitely need proper clothing, and friends, to help keep you warm, and overcome that indoor inertia.

If you can find REAL felt or alpaca foot inserts for kids (NOT polyester), and put them inside standard wellie-type rain boots, you’ve just created a pair of warm kid boots for a fraction of the cost of snow boots. Wear wool socks for extra measure.  Buy rain boots a size too big in fall, and as kids grow, take out the wool inserts for spring and summer.

Fit for a prince...

Fit for a prince…

The weather is not likely to settle down anytime in the near future, and families who follow Green Spiral know all about raising resilient kids.  Green Spiral field trips are not for everybody; they’re kind of like “Outdoor Leadership School” for toddlers, kids and families.  But for those who do follow the wild spirit into the woods, the magic and the misadventure makes every extra effort worthwhile.

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The colder the winter the sweeter the spring, and even rain feels nice compared to ice. Getting outside in cold weather is good for you — and here’s an introduction to the fairly new concept of “brown fat”.  Brown fat is abundant in hibernating animals and newborns, it’s function is to keep the body warm.  But “brown fat” has also recently been discovered in adults as a response to cold exposure.  Brown fat keeps you warm, and it also burns “white fat”.  In short, being outside in winter causes you to build brown fat, which eventually keeps you warmer, WHILE, it makes you thinner!

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Nature doesn’t hibernate in winter, and there is plenty to do. The first three “Urban Wild Adventures”, to the Webster Sculpture Garden, Memorial Park and Tower Grove Park were cold, cold, cold. Kids have less body mass than adults, and thus get dangerously cold faster, so bundle little ones up well, wrap babies close to the body, and bring warm drinks in a thermos for when you get back to the car.  As the old saying goes, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”

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Memorial Park in Brentwood (near the YMCA), is a fabulous destination for a short cold weather hike, as the secret paths are easier to find in winter, mulched with recycled Christmas trees.  Be careful not to fall into the creek when crossing the stepping stones, and make your way to the bridge with the arch.  Keep your eye on the creek — we had a magical moment when we spotted a great blue heron! It’s nice to have a tour guide who carries along bird books, and that nature guide could be you.

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Along with a moment of magic, every trip has a misadventure; the misadventure on this trip was the sad realization that trash along creeks is highly visible in winter.  On a positive note, mothers can’t stop themselves from cleaning up this pretty planet:  the moms found a lost garbage bag, spontaneously started cleaning up the place, and the kids jumped right in. The nice thing about winter hiking is that you don’t have to wash hands, just mittens! Panera would be your closest cozy stop, across the street in the same shopping center as Whole Foods.

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Here’s your map should you want to catch up with Green Spiral Tours, or simply organize your own playgroup adventure.

2016-01-25 map Memorial Park

 

The Tower Grove Park trip was even colder, with one or two misadventures. But know that Tower Grove has a secret natural playground, and Angela took us there. Our destination was these “gnarly knee trees” underneath a bald cypress tree.  This type of natural wonder cannot be landscaped – they’re very old and only grow in the wettest ground.

BUT! it snowed, covering up the gnarly knee destination! And, sadly, one of the cars got broken into —  so always remember “Adventure School Rules #3” – remain aware, and always lock valuables away and out of sight.

2016 Adventure School Rules

HOWEVER! Tower Grove has a pony! Who knew? AND, it was early February, so we saw the earliest sign of spring: witch hazel in bloom.

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Tower Grove is a known birding destination along the “Mississippi Flyway”, so you might want to  return around Mother’s Day, with a picnic, when the songbirds pass through. We learned that a bird sanctuary is planned to be installed in Tower Grove Park soon. By the way, Hartford Coffee is a nice place to warm up, with quality coffee or hot chocolate.

 

Mr. Cypress Tree

Blackburn Park in Webster Groves is an amazing park to explore, and Angela & the families ventured forth in the rain, which seemed like  fun after the first three cold trips. Blackburn is famous for it’s sinkholes, and the kids had a blast jumping in and out of them; but be careful, what happens if the sinkhole doesn’t let you out? Remember, these are true off-the-beaten adventures and not sanitized, canned experiences, so you have to stop and assess the risks and hazards.  Fortunately, most kids have highly developed survival skills, and in this world, they need to be encouraged to take more risks, not fewer.  As always, use your own judgement.

Sink into the goodness...

Sink into the goodness…

By the way, ponchos are better for kids than umbrellas, because ponchos are cheaper and last longer than umbrellas, plus, nobody gets poked in the eye! Here’s a darling blog by a “Wild Mom” which tells you all about the adventure to Blackburn Park, and how to become a “Wild Family”. Imho, wild families have more fun, AND they are going to save this beautiful earth:

Becoming a Wild Family

The trip to Lindberg Park in Maplewood resulted in a great horned owl sighting as well as the welcome sight of wild purple crocus flowers — the first wink of spring! Also found: rabbit fur from owl hunting, as well as multiple groundhog burrows.  Teach kids to look up, down, and all around.

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Kids don’t learn about nature by osmosis or by magic; they must be taught directly how to pick up trash and put on wool socks.  Schools are not particularly set up to teach kids about nature, so the amazing nature teacher in your life is likely to be you. Hopefully this blog inspires you to get outside and shake off the winter doldrums.  As a tip to future trip leaders, it works well to meet your playgroup at the playground, to get the ya-ya’s out, so when the nature hike begins, everyone is in a calm mood of ready awareness.

Think on these things?

Think on these things?

In short, Winter Urban Wild Adventures, are good for you, good for kids, and good for Saint Louis. Be inspired to launch your own trips with the maps provided, or follow Angela Wildermuth on future “Urban Wild” adventures, by watching for future Green Spiral emails or following the Green Spiral Facebook Page.

Now here’s your homework:

  1. Go to your favorite park and get off the beaten track.  Look along the edges, where the wild things might be.  Look up, look down.  Collect nature items as you go, and arrange them in an interesting way at the end of your explorations.  Take a picture of it, along with the kids, for your photo journal.  Mark it with the date and location. This is a “Goldsworthy”; following in the footsteps of famous artist Andy Goldsworthy.
  2. Buy wool socks, rain boots & ponchos, and train your family to get outside in all kinds of weather.  Get your friends to come with you. Tell yourselves how resilient and awesome you are becoming with each passing day.
  3. Create a winter terrarium by collecting a small sample of soil, plus a small patch of frozen moss.  Put it inside a pretty jar with a lid, spritz it with water and set it on the kitchen table.  Prepare to be amazed at the tiny creatures and ferns that unfurl as the terrarium warms. Toss the soil and moss into the compost pile when the tiny riot of life has played itself out.

Found it!  Here’s the scoop on what we’ve long been looking for:   the best time and place to go kayaking with kids.

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Missouri is home to some of the biggest and most beautiful spring-fed rivers in the world, and Labor Day Monday is the perfect time to go.  Sadly, families attempting to float our beautiful Missouri rivers are often disappointed by lewd and drunken behavior, obviously not suitable for children. It can all be rather frustrating, and legislation has been introduced to address the problem.

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Meanwhile, Green Spiral Tours has discovered that the Courtois River on Labor Day Monday is the perfect time and place to take kids on their first kayaking adventure.  Ponder this: if your city washes away, knowing how to kayak might save someone’s life someday.  It’s becoming increasingly important to raise resilient kids.

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You are headed for the Courtois River, which is really a creek.  “Courtois is french, meaning “polite river”. In Missouri, we pronounce it the “CODE-away”.  Kids should be old enough to swim, problem solve and respect wild rivers.  Middle School is the perfect age to learn to kayak, but of course people of any age will appreciate this trip.

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Paddle Courtois Jzka WEB

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Start by calculating your mileage to the GPS destination of Bass River Resorts at 204 Butts Road, 65565. Call Bass River Resorts at 800-392-3700 to check the price and reserve your kayak or canoe. You are headed out Highway 44, which also happens to be Route 66, the “Mother Road”. If you have a Green Spiral adventure map, the parade of water towers will help you pass some time along the way.  Exit 208 at Cuba will take you to Steelville, the jumping off point for many a river trip. Steelville is where you stop for food and gas.

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Kayaking COLOR 2017-08-24

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Stop for sandwiches at the Subway in either Cuba or Steelville, and gas up now for a quick get-away at the end of the day.  Then proceed to Bass River Resorts, just ten miles down the road.  If packing your own lunch, BYO+ is the way to go.  (Bring Your Own PLUS” something to share).  Cubed melon is refreshing on the river, as are carrots and frozen grapes.

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When kayaking, or on any adventure, it’s always good to bring friends, and a small group of less than 12 works best on the river. Remember that smaller groups move faster than large groups, canoes will travel faster than kayaks, and you will be limited by the slowest paddler in your group. Teenagers will sprint off and be gone before you know it, so make a plan with them to wait for you at the rope swing, until you get there.  The rope swing is about a third of the way into the trip.

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Bass River Resorts is a big operation; the rest rooms are clean, the sign in process is swift, and most importantly, you leave your car at the “take out” point.  This turns out to be important at the end of the day, when the sun is going down, and your tribe is getting hungry.  Always begin with the end in mind, and know when embarking on river adventures, there’s always a lot of “hurry up and wait”.  This particular trip minimizes the “hurry up and wait”, because your car will be waiting for you at the end of your paddling adventure.

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Unless you like wet car seats, bring a change of clothing and leave it in your car for when you get off the river. Free showers and changing rooms are available when you get off the river as well. Consider buying kids a face mask at the big Bass River store; they will love it.

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If you have coolers, big dogs, young children, or fishermen: get a canoe, and be sure to select the fiberglass “Old Towne” style, which slide more easily over the rocks.   Bringing a low slung chair for the canoe is not a bad idea, as a comfort measure for adults.  Put younger children in a tandem kayak with you, but let middle school kids try their own kayak, or perhaps they could tandem kayak with a friend. Be sure to bring friends for high school and college aged students.

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Two paddle

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Pay your money at Bass Rivers, sign the liability waiver, and ask for the “Blunt Trip” which is a 6 mile paddle, lasting about three hours — if you linger.  There is a longer trip, called the “Berryman Trip” which you can try later, when you have more time. You will be given a bus ticket, and directed to park just beyond the cabins and the horses at the river.  This is the “Take Out” point where you leave your car and jump on the bus.  Slather on sunscreen here, while you wait for the school bus, and use the restrooms one last time.

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Unless you like wet car seats, bring a change of clothing and leave it in your car for when you get off the river. Showers are also available here, where you parked your car. Consider buying kids a face mask at the big Bass River store as a spontaneous purchase. The kids will love it. Give your ticket to the bus driver and get on the school bus.

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Bass River

Bass River

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The bus will take you on a short ten minute drive to the “Put In” point.  The driver will then assign each paddler his or her kayak or canoe.  Ask for a life jacket for kids, and use your flotation device as a backrest in your kayak, unless you absolutely cannot swim, in which case you’ll feel more comfortable with a life-jacket.  You can see the bottom of the Courtois Creek on this whole trip, so fear not:  as the locals say,  “If you find yourself drowning, just stand up!”

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The kayaks are the “sit-upon” type, so wear quick dry shorts and flip-flops.  Bring a sunhat, polarized sunglasses, lunch, drinking water, your camera, field guides, and a bungie cord to lash your dry-bag to the kayak.  Or, go minimalist, leave valuables at home and simply use a plastic bag and a piece of string.

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Kayaks are highly maneuverable, they put you closer to the water, and you get stuck less often.  If you’ve never kayaked before, it’s easy to learn the unique swivel motion required to dip each paddle into the water. Take some time when you first begin kayaking, to practice maneuvering the kayak: go forward, backwards, practice spinning and get comfortable with the paddle. Then start paddling down the creek. In general, the Courtois starts out with high canyon walls, as well as swimming holes, rope swings and ledges; be sure to swim early in your trip, as the opportunities for swimming become fewer as you go along.

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Look! No crowds!*

There is lots of wildlife to enjoy as this trip proceeds. There are tadpoles, craw-fish and frogs to catch, snakes to chase, and large fish to spy beneath your boat. If you stand in the water, little fishes will come to nibble and kiss at your feet.  The torch-shaped red flower you see near the water in September is called cardinal flower; migrating hummingbirds love it.  The bright red leaves you will see belong to the sumac, the first leaves to change, already in September. You will also see lots of dragonflies and blue swallowtail butterflies.

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The Courtois runs down to meet up with the Huzzah (an old English victory cry among sailors), which then quickly meets the Meramec River  (an Algonquian term meaning river of ugly fishes), before all joining the Mighty Mississippi – the Father of Waters.   French, English and Native American, we are a melting pot of waters. If you live in South Saint Louis, you’re floating on your drinking water, so be careful about what you put in it.

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Leaving Saint Louis at a lazy 9 am, you can easily be on the river by noon, including the Subway stop, returning home before 7 pm, including a stop for milkshakes and hamburgers.  On the way home, stop at Dairy Isle, a local independent ice cream shop in Steelville, located near the Subway where you first bought your sandwiches. It’s easy to find, and marked on your Green Spiral Adventure map.

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All scream for Ice Cream

All scream for Ice Cream

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You might or might not get caught in Ozark traffic on the way home Labor Day Monday, so enjoy the sun-kissed feeling, the people in the car and one long last day of being unplugged before fall arrives and school settles in for good.    Bass River Resorts is open all year long, so you can kayak through the changing of the leaves, and even join a paddle on New Year’s Eve!  (Bring long underwear.)

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Watch the Green Spiral Facebook Page for downloadable “Kayaking With Kids” Adventure Maps, and stay tuned for a future collection of family adventure maps featuring this adventure in Amazon books.

Viva le polite river!

Kayaking COLOR 2017-08-24

Life Must be Lived as Play

The blooming of the green world is intimately tied to the economy, and as the economy recovers new playgrounds are springing up like dandylions!

Here’s a Green Spiral Map that shows the many great playgrounds around Saint Louis; send an email to GreenSpiralTours@gmail.com if you’d like an email copy of the map which will let you to zoom in for a better look.

Especially if you are involved with a school, it’s extremely important to see  “best practices” before designing your new playground; I recommend taking a large group of PTO families and lots of “stunt kids” out on a bonding bus ride together to test out different playgrounds in real life, long before you begin the playground planning process.

Fortunately we have lots of creative and unique playgrounds in Saint Louis worth visiting, and here I touch on two we have visited through Green Spiral field trips.  On the short list of playgrounds, I would include  “The Awakening” in Chesterfield, the Walter Ambrose Family Center in Webster, Keysor Elementary in Kirkwood, New City School in the CWE, Maplewood-Richmond Heights Public Schools and Citygarden.

Not only do children build their muscles on the playground, they also build their imaginations, and we definitely need lots of kids with powerful imaginations to help solve some of the world’s most vexing problems.  We are moving in the right direction when we build thoughtful playscapes for children which include water, nature, sound, community and lots of positive challenge. The criteria for the Green Spiral Great Playground Map includes “first of kind” playgrounds, play for all abilities including wheelchairs, sense of place and uniqueness.

Pink Ducky Race at Citygarden

2012-09-08 pink ducky raceOur greatest children’s playground is unquestionably the Citygarden, which was not necessarily created to be a children’s playground per se.

Water is life, and an irresistible magnet for children.  To Citygarden’s credit, when all those children spontaneously showed up and jumped into the pools, instead of forbidding the children to touch the water, they hired lifeguards, and let the children play.

In addition, children are allowed to climb on the art sculptures, which is not only unusual, but positively enlightened.   We must offer our best art to our children, as children have big souls to feed, and they feed their souls with their hands, by touching things.

There are numerous areas in the Citygarden specifically designed for younger children, such as the Pinocchio sculpture, the white rabbits, and the hidden musical jump board.  Watch while older kids completely ignore the outdoor video screen, preferring instead to hop in the pop-up spray fountains, race about the garden, climb over the sculptures or dip in the pools, proving without question that water is more powerful than screen-time.

Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, writes of the many ways we are systematically separating children from nature, and you may be noticing this disturbing trend that increasingly forbids children to touch, crawl, climb, get dirty or certainly destroy things.  Last Child in the Woods started the recent child/nature movement, and is required reading for anyone serious about creating playground habitats for children.

Fortunately for us, through good design and good policy, Citygarden is a “do touch” children’s garden that can withstand the trample of thousands of tiny feet and hands, pointing the way forward in creating playgrounds that include wheels, native plants, creatures, children, dogs, water and a vibrant community life full of all kinds of people.

2009-09 City Garden Bunnies

The Pink Ducky Race during the Pink Flamingo Party every year is a particularly nice time to visit the Citygarden, as it’s thrilling for children to watch their special pink ducky float down the length of the pool, and hopefully win the race.  The Pink Ducky Race is currently scheduled for September 7th, 2013.

There is plenty of available street parking on 10th street near the white rabbits, also conveniently located near the porta-potties.  Bring hand sanitizer, and your dog.

2013-04-12 awakening instagram foot 609kThe Awakening

In Spring 2013 Green Spiral hosted a field trip to explore  “The Awakening” sculpture by J. Seward Johnson in Chesterfield.

Sadly, it was a miserably long cold wet spring and our beautiful April outdoor lunch turned out to be dank, dark, cold and threatening. No one came out to play, and I don’t blame them.

“The Awakening” is a gigantic sculpture of a man erupting from the ground; it is truly remarkable when you happen upon it, and photos can’t quite capture the surprise and magnificence that rise up inside you upon approaching it.  I recommend you experience it for yourself.

What is most remarkable and inspiring about “The Awakening” is Chesterfield’s vision of putting “Art at the Heart of the Parks” and the parks in the center of community.  This is a “do touch” climbable sculpture that figuratively and physically puts children, community and art at the heart of the town center.

There is pent-up demand for destinations that offer nature play, and Citygarden provides economic proof that groups like Green Spiral and others will venture forth to find these destinations, spreading eco-tourism dollars along the way.  The Chesterfield Mall is conveniently located just east of the playground and sculpture.

“The Awakening” sculpture can be hard to find, as it doesn’t yet show up on Google Earth, so I’ve marked it on this Google Green Spiral Playground Map.

Let me know if you can see it:

https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&tab=ml

Here’s a link to the Chesterfield Arts page to learn more about the sculpture:

http://www.chesterfieldarts.org/awakening.html

2013-04-12 awakening from afar

These two playgrounds, The Citygarden and The Awakening, are unconventional children’s playgrounds by traditional standards, but they serve as anchor points of best practice, as readily evidenced upon your first visit to either one of these remarkable destinations.

The Green Spiral Map at the top of the page shows a number of other great Saint Louis playgrounds, in existence or under construction, and include Turtle Park, Tilles Park, the Forest Park Inclusion Playground, Zachary’s Playground at Lake Saint Louis, The City Museum, the Tree Top Adventure Playground and Sensory Garden in Shaw Park, New City School, the cutting edge playground at Maplewood Richmond Heights School, the all-abilities, all inclusive school playground at Keysor Elementary School, and the new Walter Ambrose Family Center preschool playground in Webster Groves that spills beautifully down a steep hill.  Many more are being added to the map all the time.

I encourage you to gather a playgroup and check these playgrounds off your list, use it as a curriculum map for the study of outdoor play; and if you are building a new playground, I’d love to see it on the Green Spiral Map one day!

Invite me to talk to your school PTO for free, by sending a note to greenspiraltours@gmail.com, and I’ll come in exchange for selling the maps at $2 each to subsidize the trip.

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Paddle Day! – Sunday, August 19th 2012

I went to scout out what I would call “Paddle Day” at Riverlands,  the new Audubon Migratory Bird Center located near Alton.

http://riverlands.audubon.org/visit-us

This event was AMAZING!  The photo above is courtesy of St. Louis Sail and Paddle, a shop that sells kayaks and sailboats, and graciously brought all sorts of paddle toys for the public to try out.  They had paddleboards, which you stand up to paddle; they had kayaks that you pedal; they had sailboats you could put two whole families on.  It was a total blast to try out all the toys and enjoy the water on a beautiful day!   Evidently, until WWII, Saint Louis was quite the sailing hotspot; perhaps we need to build it back up.  Here’s a link to the St. Louis Sail & Paddle Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/StLouisSailandPaddle

‘Big Muddy,’ another Saint Louis outfitter was there, along with the Alpine Shop, and virtually every non-profit that has anything to do with rivers.  The US Fish and Wildlife Department was there with a box of interesting turtles, the Lewis and Clark re-enactors were there with period costumes, weapons and elk stew made in a cast iron pot; the US Army Corps of Engineers was there with a replica of the river on a table in a trailer.  Plus, there were geocaching activities, maps, treats and give-aways of all kinds.

This event was part of a federally funded program designed to encourage people, especially families, to be active and get outdoors.  The theme this year was ‘connecting with rivers and waterways’ and the whole program is called “Summer of Paddling;” it includes a series of paddle events up and down the length of the Mississippi River thanks to large and small collaborations between non-profits, government agencies and small businesses.  I have heard that next year the theme will be bicycling.

Here’s the official link to “Summer of Paddling;” in all honesty it took me a fair amount of work, and a lot of question asking, to figure out exactly what “Paddle Day” was about, so I’ve tried to describe it in this blog as clearly as possible.

http://www.sop2012.org/

I thought the timing was good, as school had just started, and sports had not yet called families to the ball fields for Saturday games.   It was a glorious day, and mid-August is a good time to play with water, and not let go of summer just quite yet.

THIS IS EXACTLY THE KIND OF THING WE NEED TO HELP NURTURE ALONG THE FAMILY-NATURE CONNECTION!  Sorry, I typically don’t shout, but again, it was simply AMAZING!  I regret I didn’t take any pictures; if I did, you would see that attendance was very light.  In fairness, you need hundreds if not thousands of families to fill up great nature spaces, but still, the event was definitely not overflowing with people, which was good, because you could easily get on any paddle toy without waiting.

I have written all over the Facebook Pages of every ‘Paddle Day’ organization I could find, encouraging them to please, please repeat this event next year.  Like Earth Day, it will grow and people will come.  One intriguing thing I learned about was the Mississippi River Water Trail: it’s like a hiking map, except for kayaks and canoes.  If you are an experienced paddler, you are familiar with them.  The idea is to create a national trail we can all use and be proud of, like the Appalachian Trail.   Our rivers define us here in Saint Louis especially, and we are right to be proud of them.

I’ll be monitoring this event for next year, and if it comes up over the horizon, you can be sure that I’ll give you a shout out via social media, and push it via the Green Spiral newsletter.   Until then, there’s still time to get out and paddle around before winter sets in!

Here we are on an adult hike to undisclosed location

filled with hoo-doos, box canyons, fresh springs,

little lizards, huckleberries and reindeer moss.

“Rocks Make the Place!”

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