Central College News

Central environmental project receives $30,000 grant

November 14, 2013

Associate professor of biology Anya Butt (right) helps build one part of the natural playscape at the North Overlook Beach at Lake Red Rock.

In an effort to provide a safer, educational and sustainable alternative to traditional playgrounds, Central College, in collaboration with the Army Corps of Engineers and the Red Rock Lake Association, is building a natural playscape at Lake Red Rock with the help of a $30,000 3Mgives Eco Grant.

The Central environmental studies program proposed the natural playscape—a playground that uses natural features shaped from or mimicking the environment to create interactive facilities for children to play—last year in conjunction with a junior seminar project.

The grant, awarded to the Red Rock Lake Association, will significantly improve and help maintain the innovative playscape. Research shows that children will stay active twice as long at a natural playscape than a traditional playground.

“Natural playscapes keep kids more engaged and creative—they keep them connected with nature and also they tend to be less injurious to children,” said Anya Butt, associate professor of biology and faculty supervisor of the project. “It turns out that if you have a large slide and a kid falls from there that’s a greater height than what we built. In nature, children are basically falling onto moss from a log that is three feet high. It is a safer playground for a lot of kids and plus it will keep them engaged longer.”

The project is located the North Overlook Beach at Lake Red Rock. The playscape will feature “play pods” with a water fountain, Science Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) equipment, geocaching opportunities and a prairie restoration project which will be turned into a prairie maze. In honor of its 65th anniversary, Vermeer Corporation had nearly 100 employee volunteers help complete one phase of the project last month which included mulching trails and building an amphitheater.

3Mgives is awarding almost $400,000 to nine organizations with its 2013 Eco Grants, which are aimed at connecting kids to nature and improving environmental and conservation education for youth.

The 2013 grant recipients are nature and environmental learning centers located in communities near a 3M facility. Recipients were selected based on criteria, which include: connecting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education with outdoor learning opportunities, improving environmental and conservation education and increasing student visits and teacher preparedness—thereby extending the learning beyond a single visit.

“3Mgives is committed to improving every life through innovative giving in education, community and the environment. Organizations like Central College are helping to connect the future workforce to nature and science as well,” said Kim Price, vice president, 3Mgives. “We are delighted to support the Red Rock Lake Association and Central in its efforts to enhance environmental education.”

More play pods will be added within the next few years. After the completion of the project, the Corps will maintain the playscape.