Open Voices Blog

News and conversations about the growing evidence of the healing power of nature and green development in cities

Open Voices News Roundup: December 9

12/09/13 | View Comments

Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture, the nature-mental health link, and much more. Check back each week for new roundups and items.

Doctor’s orders: Get outside!
“We all know the drill: Get sick. Go to the doctor. Receive a prescription for medicine. Take the medicine until you feel better. But what if, instead of being handed a prescription for medication at the end of your appointment, you instead received a prescription for spending more time outdoors? That’s the premise behind a new Boston-area program piloted by the Appalachian Mountain Club and MassGeneral Hospital for Children. The program, called “Outdoors Rx,” focuses on children 13 years of age and under and capitalizes on the natural resources right in its patients’ backyards. “There’s a growing body of research looking at the benefits of the outdoors on kids. For mental, physical and spiritual health, the outdoors is good for you. It reduces the symptoms of ADD and ADHD, asthma and childhood obesity,” said Pam Hess, Outdoors Rx’s program director.”

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Friday Flower: Name This Bloom!

12/06/13 | View Comments

Every Friday we publish a new Friday Flower. We ask our readers, as a game, to identify the flower. Here’s today’s beautiful bloom — anybody know what it is? (And guess more Friday Flowers here.)

Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 11.27.54 AM

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Recommended Reading: First National Study of Urban parks and Physical Activity

12/05/13 | View Comments

How does your proximity and use of local parks contribute to your health? City Parks Alliance and the RAND Corporation will be investigating that question over the next four years in hopes of establishing a set of best practices when it comes to managing urban parks and encouraging physical activity.

The study will include 200 different parks in 25 U.S. cities that were all randomly selected. The project will include training for park personnel and members of the communities that use the parks to act as “citizen scientists” to help collect objective data for the study.

The process of researching and the results that emerge from this study will help park professionals better understand how certain management techniques can impact the amount and type of physical activity taking place in these natural, yet urban, settings.

Learn more about the study here.

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Recommended Reading: A New Class of Earth Explorers

12/03/13 | View Comments

Though there are many technological temptations keeping kids indoors, more outdoor education programs are emerging across the country to help children learn about their natural surroundings. The Earth Explorers program based out of 10 different community centers around the city of Rochester, NY is one such program that runs weekly activities for children year round that encourage exploring the outdoors.

According to the city of Rochester’s website, “The Earth Explorers program encourages youth to find nature in their own backyard. Some days, that means working in a garden at the center. Other days, we’re playing a game of Frisbee in snowshoes. A garden or open field serves as a wonderful outdoor classroom, where youth learn while staying engaged and active.”

These types of programs help expose children to hands on application of the natural sciences, as they can often be found planting new vegetables or discovering something new in the dirt. By developing an interest in nature at an early age, these young Earth Explorers can hope to maintain a connection with the natural world as they grow.

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Open Voices News Roundup: December 2

12/02/13 | View Comments

Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture, the nature-mental health link, and much more. Check back each week for new roundups and items.

How San Francisco Is Changing the Way People Think of Green Space
“Tables and chairs sit neatly arranged on a wooden platform in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District. When the sun is shining, customers spill out of cafes and restaurants and crowd onto the platform. But this isn’t just outdoor seating. It’s a park. The platform is part of San Francisco’s Pavement to Parks program, a collaboration between the city planning department and a number of other municipal agencies, including the mayor’s office. The program converts squares of pavement into plazas and postage-stamp-sized parks, called parklets. It started four years ago as a kind of experiment and has since become a fixture of civic life in San Francisco.”

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Open Voices News Roundup: November 25

11/25/13 | View Comments

Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture, the nature-mental health link, and much more. Check back each week for new roundups and items.

Expert Urges Following Nature in Urban Design
“To be friendly to the earth, cities like Portland can learn from it. That was the message of a Nov. 15 lecture at the Public Library, sponsored by the state chapter of the American Institute of Architects. There is “boundless opportunity to improve the quality of life for all of us” by designing urban spaces around the environment, said Bill Browning, an internationally known environmental designer whose clients have included the White House and the 2000 Olympic Village in Sydney, Australia. Browning told an audience of more than 50 that those opportunities include biomimicry (designing in a way that mimics nature) and biophilia (using design to enhance human connection to the natural world). In the process of learning from and connecting to her, humans may also end up being a little kinder to Mother Nature.”

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Friday Flower: Name This Bloom!

11/22/13 | View Comments

Every Friday we publish a new Friday Flower. We ask our readers, as a game, to identify the flower. Here’s today’s beautiful bloom — anybody know what it is? (And guess more Friday Flowers here.)

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Recommended Reading: Blending Nature and Technology

11/19/13 | View Comments

In today’s world where you can’t navigate day to day activities without the latest technologies, artist Mark Dorf is working to bring the natural and digital together in a way that embraces the beauty of both sides of our 21st century environment. Using digital photography, collaging, 3D rendering and scanning technology, Dorf has created a new series of photographs called “//_PATH” that blend geometric forms with images of nature.

Dorf aims to immerse himself in new environments while working on these photos, but also seeks to display how dependent we’ve become on technology to help us navigate these natural environments. He refers to this blending of nature and digital as a “comparison of languages,” with nature being the most ancient of all languages that helped give way to our new language of modern, digital images.

The foremost goal of his collection of images, according to Dorf, is to help people realize that it is possible to live in harmony between the natural and digital. By bringing the two closer together, people can learn to appreciate balancing both in their lives.

View more of Dorf’s photographs here.

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Open Voices News Roundup: November 18

11/18/13 | View Comments

Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture, the nature-mental health link, and much more. Check back each week for new roundups and items.

Would You Send Your Child to Daycare in the Forest?
“While ensuring children’s safety and wellbeing at all times is absolutely necessary, I think it’s unfortunate that we North Americans are so bound to indoor spaces and the countless costs associated with them. Imagine if we took a lesson from the popular “forest kindergartens” of Scandinavia and northern Europe, where toddlers and preschool-aged kids spend all day outdoors, learning that “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” If daycares shifted their focus to parks and playgrounds in urban settings, and forests in rural areas, there would no longer be such a pressing need to pay for an indoor space; childcare workers could be paid better wages; and kids wouldn’t suffer from what Richard Louv has termed “nature deficit disorder” in his fascinating book “Last Child in the Woods.””

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Friday Flower: Name This Bloom!

11/15/13 | View Comments

Every Friday we publish a new Friday Flower. We ask our readers, as a game, to identify the flower. Here’s today’s beautiful bloom — anybody know what it is? (And guess more Friday Flowers here.)

Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 1.01.04 PM

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