New garden playspace inspires creativity and imaginative play, offering children the opportunity to foster meaningful connections with nature through hands-on discovery.
This winter, the California Academy of Sciences’ East Garden was transformed into a wonderland of discovery with a new hands-on, whimsical outdoor playspace: Wander Woods.
Situated outdoors beneath beautiful old-growth cypress trees overlooking Golden Gate Park, Wander Woods offers multi-sensory discovery and learning opportunities through areas dedicated to crawling, climbing, and other imaginative play activities. Winding pathways take visitors on an exploration of the garden, revealing a hands-on area where guests can build their own den from natural materials, a space for nature-driven creativity and honing fine motor skills, a log tunnel to crawl through, and a hillside nest and perch that provides a thrilling new view of the entire garden.
“Wander Woods will offers hands-on experiences that unleash imaginations and foster a deep connection with nature. This kind of place-based environmental learning is powerful, helping children view themselves as part of, not apart from, the natural world,” said Scott Sampson, Executive Director of the California Academy of Sciences. “Understanding that we are embedded in the places we live is a critical step on the path to regenerate the natural world and ensure a healthy Earth for generations to come.”
To create this unique new space, the Academy partnered with renowned nature-based playspace designers and builders Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds. “It was a true pleasure to design and build this park,” said Adam Bienenstock, Founder and CEO of Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds. “What emerged from the collaborative process is a place for the young and old to find a reprieve from the city to connect to nature and each other. The Academy’s commitment to these connections are not only shown in their investment in creating this space but the ongoing programming of it.”
Constructed from locally-sourced materials like salvaged tree trunks, Wander Woods features a variety of stroller- and wheelchair-accessible playspaces that provide visitors an immersive way to explore the natural world. From observing a bug crawl to balancing on a log, Wander Woods promotes inquiry-based activities that nurture collaboration and complex reasoning. Although Wander Woods is ideal for children up to 12 years of age, guests of all ages can reflect, recharge, and reawaken their connection to nature in the Academy’s newest outdoor space.
In addition to self-directed outdoor play that stretches the body and opens the mind to creative thinking and problem-solving, Wander Woods features pop-up facilitated nature play activities and seasonal public programs.