Q&A with Natural Playspace Designer and Plant Lady, Katie Kovach
Katie Kovach, of Joyful Acres, has been working on a beautiful redesign of our outdoor playspace at Nido. We are currently running a campaign to collect donations to support the installation of Katie's design. Click here to support our goal of bringing nature into the everyday play at Nido.
Can you tell us a bit about the work you're doing with Joyful Acres and what led you to start it?
Joyful Acres is a forest farm focusing on plants, crafts, and design inspired by nature. The two main areas of work are growing plants for sale and designing natural playscapes. Current plants include edible and medicinal perennials, with plans for more annuals and woodland medicinals. Design projects are primarily natural playscapes, areas intended for play using natural building materials and working with the landscape. I’ve been dreaming of working in a plant nursery for years, and have worked with plants and people in various ways from research to environmental education. I love plants, and I love people, working with them, and bringing them together brings me so much joy. At this moment in my life and with my family, starting a small nursery on my own made more sense than going to work for someone else. When my family moved last year it really burst open a whole new world of possibility and I realized the only thing I was waiting on was myself.
What's your favorite part of the design process for natural outdoor playspaces?
I say joy a lot when talking about the work that I do because at it’s core, that’s what it’s all about. It’s a real joy to make playspaces beautiful, functional and encouraging of communion with nature. It is difficult for me to pick a favorite. For me, one of the most exciting moments in designing a natural playspace is seeing the space and imagining all the possibilities it holds. Getting to experience the people that use a space and imagining with them all the ways that we can bring nature back into the flow of play is nourishing and can heal relationships with a space. And of course, seeing the natural playspace being used and loved is the ultimate joy.
Can you describe an experience that showed you the importance of outdoor nature play for children?
I can tell you that from my own childhood the most vivid happy memories I have are from playing in the woods behind my family’s home. I can remember long afternoons with specific fallen trees, building forts and castles by myself, but I was never alone. The whole woodland neighborhood was out there with me. I can remember the wind and how that made me feel, and still does, refreshed, renewed, connected to the world around me. Part of the bigger picture. That connection to nature, our nature, is always important. As time goes on it’s so very valuable to bring some of that nature into the spaces in which children spend much of their outdoor time.
Can you share a little about what you're hoping to accomplish with the new design at Nido? How will your design enrich the experience of the children at Nido?
With the natural playscape design at Nido the hope is to celebrate the space and welcome nature in more fully. The main objective of the design is to bring the aesthetics back to nature and maximize the use of the space. The strategy to maximize the space available includes reworking some of the ground covering, repositioning some of the current activity areas, replacing shade sources, and using more of the vertical space. The ground covering will be transformed from an open sand play area to a naturalized sensory pathway surrounding a log enclosed sand play area with plantings that are beautiful and will excite the senses. Shade sails will welcome in the sky while protecting from sun and rain. New play opportunities are planned along the fence under the shade tree and over the corner stage. This backyard that has done so much and for so many is going to be enhanced and will better reflect the joy that the children and caregivers experience in this special space.
Where can folks learn more about your work?