Research: Scholars and experts identify best practices
The Natural Learning Initiative collaborates with landscape architects, designers, planners, educators, play leaders, environmental educators, politicians, industry, and all professionals working for and with children to help communities create stimulating places for play, learning, and environmental education—environments that recognize human dependence on the natural world. The two primary advocacy and technical assistance organizations promoting pathways and trail developments are American Trails and the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. Representatives from these organizations, along with a respected team of experts from a variety of trail disciplines served as an advisory committee as we developed the best practices highlighted in Pathways for Play. Subsequent research has proven that incorporating these principles into pathway networks help to increase family time outdoors, increase usage of trails and pathways, and encourage repeat visits to these spaces. This advisory committee also helped develop a targeted line playful trail amenities, called Play Trails, designed to create an air of excitement, engagement, and learning as families traverse their local trail or pathway.
Program: Pathway networks infused with play
Together with the Natural Learning Initiative, College of Design, NC State University, we have created Pathways for Play™, a guidebook designed to help communities identify best locations for, and integrate play - critical for children's health - into walkable, bikeable, shared use community pathway networks infused with "play pockets" providing opportunities for playing along the way. The term pathway covers all forms of network infrastructure, including greenways, trails and sidewalks that are used by pedestrians and cyclists to move around urban/suburban neighborhoods and mixed use developments. Play Pockets include all forms of spaces and facilities identifiable by children and caregivers as play environments integral to playful pathways to encourage children and families to "discover what's around the next corner." Play pockets vary in size and may contain a mix of natural, living, and manufactured elements located on and linked by playful pathways.
“The value of shared use pathway networks is becoming recognized as a health promotion investment but they have a tendency to emphasize athletic adults rather than children and families. Pathways for Play can help shift this paradigm.”
- Robin Moore, Dipl Arch., MCP, ASLA
Natural Learning Initiative, College of Design, NC State University