7th Annual NLI Design Institute

Natural Play Environments: Designing, Building, and Programming

Think back to when you were a child… It is likely some of your fondest memories are of the outdoors. Do you still remember what you used to do outside? Do you remember yourself actively exploring the outdoors, picking summer blackberries, playing with mud, building a fort in the woods, climbing trees, or playing with water? Research (and personal experience) tell us that the outdoors has a strong impact on physical activity of children. But today’s children have far less opportunities to enjoy themselves in the fresh air.


The goal of the 7th Annual Design Institute was to raise awareness about the role of the outdoors for healthy development and to offer innovative ideas and concepts for participants to implement back home. The two day and a half event included presentations, discussions, and interactive hands-on outdoor activities.


Robin Moore, Professor of Landscape Architecture and Director of the Natural Learning Initiative, NC State University. Moderator and Speaker

Elizabeth Goodenough, PhD, a scholar, author and activist, Wayne State University Press. Guest Speaker

Ken Finch, Founder and President of Green Hearts Institute for Nature in Childhood. Guest Speaker

Philip Waters, Play Project Coordinator, the Eden Project, Cornwall, UK. Guest Speaker

Nilda Cosco, PhD, Education Specialist, Natural Learning Initiative and Research Associate Professor, College of Design, NC State University. NLI Speakers

Brad Bieber, MLA, Design Associate, Natural Learning Initiative. NLI Speakers

Annie Nashold, Director of Children’s Education and Family Programs. Nature Art, Sarah P. Duke Gardens. State-of-the-Art Project Presentations

Phil Waters, Play Project Coordinator. Play Installations, The Eden Project, Cornwall, UK. State-of-the-Art Project Presentations

Beth Lake, Director, Sue Espersen, Coordinator, and Dona McNeill, NIEHS Day Care Liaison. Healthy Outdoors, First Environments Early Learning Center. State-of-the-Art Project Presentations

Randy Fulk, Curator of Education, Linda Kinney, Education Public Programs Coordinator, and Jessica Hoffmire, Visitor Educator. KidsZone, North Carolina Zoo. State-of-the-Art Project Presentations

Betsy Grant, CEO. The Edible Schoolyard at the Greensboro Children’s Museum. State-of-the-Art Project Presentations

Sharon Bright and Pam Hartley, VP, Exhibits and Core Initiatives. Castaway Cove Kids Garden, Marbles Kids Museum. State-of-the-Art Project Presentations

Nancy Easterling, Associate Director for Education. Nature Play at the NC Botanical Garden, NC Botanical Garden. State-of-the-Art Project Presentations

November 5-7, 2009