Friday, March 30, 2012

"Save children's relationship with the outdoors" - The National Trust

I would remiss not to post this even though it is doing the rounds on the BBC and other websites and blogs and you may have seen it already. It is too important not to mention.

The National Trust in the UK have published a report where they say:

"Evidence of a long-term and dramatic decline in children’s relationship with the outdoors is ‘overwhelming’ and urgent action is needed to bridge this growing gap before its too late."

Mentioning "Nature Deficit Disorder" they also point out the following statistics revealing that things have changed dramatically in just one generation:
  • Fewer than ten per cent of kids play in wild places; down from 50 per cent a generation ago
  • The roaming radius for kids has declined by 90 per cent in one generation (thirty years)
  • Three times as many children are taken to hospital each year after falling out of bed, as from falling out of trees
  • A 2008 study showed that half of all kids had been stopped from climbing trees, 20 per cent had been banned from playing conkers or games of tag
Time to get involved......

Thursday, March 29, 2012

UK: National Heat Map

Maps, I love them, so here's an interactive one developed by the Department of Energy and Climate Change in the UK to show heat demand from buildings across England.

" Local authorities will be able to use the map as the starting point to developing detailed Energy Master Plans to inform distributed energy policies in their Local Development Frameworks and climate change strategies. Developers can use the map to help them meet local distributed energy needs."

What's not to like?

The True Cost of Unwalkable Streets

Interesting article over at The Atlantic Cities about the link between obesity, diabetes and a serious lack of physical activity.

"Perhaps the single most alarming public health trend in the United States today is the dramatic rise in the number of people who are overweight and obese, bringing serious risks of heart disease, diabetes and other consequences leading to life impairment and premature death. This is bad enough as it is, but I contend that it is particularly unfortunate that we do not sufficiently recognize the extent to which these trends are caused by environmental factors, particularly the shape of our built environment."

Found via Tim Gill, who wrote a great post about street play, with loads of great links.

Jonah Lehrer

I'm a big fan of Jonah Lehrer's column Frontal Cortex over at Wired and he now has a new book out called Imagine - How Creativity Works.

"........Shattering the myth of muses, higher powers, even creative “types,” Jonah Lehrer demonstrates that creativity is not a single “gift” possessed by the lucky few. It’s a variety of distinct thought processes that we can all learn to use more effectively."

Might just have to put it on my wishlist or maybe treat myself now..... I've no patience! 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Marc Johns

Love it...... Found here.

Reasons for Optimism

Lovely idea, this website. If you're feeling a bit pessimistic, check out all the great things going on around the world and it will perk you right up.

For example, I loved reading about this project, ioby, bringing environmental projects to life, block by block in New York....

Or this one, about mapping-innovative-cities over at Sustainable Cities Collective, where they specified the following:

Key factors in urban innovation
A good mayor
Mayors in Barcelona, Munich, Turin and Bogotá have radically influenced their respective cities’ futures through tenacious and intelligent intervention. Measures have included the reduction of red tape, zoning and construction restrictions, and the careful balancing of social, business and cultural agendas.
Ethnic mix
Cities with a lively, tolerant, changing and cosmopolitan population tend to attract the best people. But big cities need to be wary of ghettoising new arrivals to the peripheries, a problem that has blighted Paris.
Although Richard Florida plays down the link between education and start-ups, every successful city, from Bangalore to the San Francisco area, has a good university at its core or nearby.
Urban innovation is not just about the numbers of tech companies; the trick is to get them communicating with each other. This means bars, coffee shops, shared offices and communal public spaces. Innovation often comes through serendipitous meetings, so tech clusters need places for unexpected encounters. Cool bars attract bright young people, and the proximity of the creative industries helps both groups to spot new opportunities and emerging trends.

Seriously, I could go on.......

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Only Human

"The Planet’s Talking About A Revolution
The Natural Laws Ain’t Got No Constitution
They’ve Got A Right To Live Their Own Life
But We Keep Paving Over Paradise

‘Cause We’re Only Human
Yes We Are, Only Human
If It’s Our Only Excuse Do You Think We’ll Keep On Being Only Human
Yes We Are, Only Human, Only Human, So Far, So Far"

I don't know...... I'm listening to this CD at the moment and the lyrics strike me as sad every time I hear them.

Playground Ideas

I volunteer for this wonderful not-for-profit organisation and realised that I haven't actually blogged about it before. Oh, the shame.

Their goal is:

"To change the culture of education and the design of schools in the developing world to become more focused on the needs of children. Particularly the need for children to play."

A daycare playground was just completed in Uganda and apparently they filmed the process for a documentary, so I hope to post that up here soon. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Beyond the Gardens: The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership

Wonderful film about Kew Gardens work with their seed bank by Lonely Leap Film.

"Most people know Kew Gardens as home of the world's largest living plant collection but are not aware that it is also the location of an internationally important botanical research and educational institution. Going beyond the gardens as we know them, Lonelyleap produced two films for 2012's Tropical Extravaganza Festival which showcase the behind the scenes work of Kew's scientists whilst also exploring two of the festival's themes, Earth and Air.

The second film in the series looks at the work of the the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership in Surrey, home to 10% of the world's plant diversity, and how the Seed Conservation Department is helping to save wild plants and habitats for our future."


 I don't like to say "I know" (in that patronising way I hate myself when people do it to me)..... but I am happy to see that something I felt I knew has now been supported by scientific studies by the lovely people at Buglife - The Invertebrate Trust. They have released a guidance report to provide practical advice and inspire people to create biodiverse green roofs for wildlife.

"The report gives advice and guidance on how to design a roof for wildlife, including details on substrate choice and depth, which wildflowers to plant and how to create a variety of habitats such as wildflower meadows, bare ground, dead wood piles and bug hotels."

My personal experience with biodiversity: I used to sit and watch my front garden in Los Angeles for wildlife and I'd see many different types of birds coming to eat the seeds, aphids and other insect life. I'd have tons of pollinator bees and ladybirds. Compared to my neighbours front gardens, where they had just grass as far as the eye could see, my garden must have looked like a Whole Foods for local animals and insects.....

Follow the link above and you can download the report as well.

Born This Way Foundation

Now this I'm impressed with.

Lady Gaga and her mother have started a foundation to create

"..........a safe community that helps connect young people with the skills and opportunities they need to build a braver, kinder world.
We believe that everyone has the right to feel safe, to be empowered and to make a difference in the world. Together, we will move towards acceptance, bravery and love."

The launch event was hosted by Harvard University and Oprah Winfrey interviewed Lady Gaga. Check it out.....


My kids would love this, well, what kid wouldn't. Check out their website here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Great talk by Jill Vialet, founder and president of Playworks.

Found via Ashoka.

Reducing Academic Pressure May Help Children Succeed

Oooh, I love these kinds of studies, where it's shown quite clearly that testing and grade scores are not the be all and end all of education.

This particular study was conducted by a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Poitiers in Poitiers, France.

"The study noted that the students’ improvement on the tests most likely was temporary, but the results showed that working memory capacity may be improved simply by boosting students’ confidence and reducing their fear of failure. “Our research suggests that students will benefit from education that gives them room to struggle with difficulty,” Autin said. “Teachers and parents should emphasize children’s progress rather than focusing solely on grades and test scores. Learning takes time and each step in the process should be rewarded, especially at early stages when students most likely will experience failure.”"

William H. Whyte: The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces - The Street Corner

William H. Whyte: The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces - The Street Corner from MAS on Vimeo.

Another one of those moments where I wonder where I've been... why haven't I seen this before? But the main thing is that I've seen it now and it is really interesting. Seating, seating and more seating..

William H. Whyte.

Found via swissmiss.

Herzog and de Meuron

There is a great interview over at Design Observer with Jacques Herzog from the Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron.

While reading it I saw these images of their study models for their Actelion Business Center and think they are absolutely fascinating.

Here's a very small part of the interview:

"The topics of sustainability, resources and energy are on everyone’s lips these days. We’re also dealing with questions of the CO2-free city and asking ourselves what architecture can do to help. Instead of rebuilding cities radically, it’s more likely that we’ll see inventions like solar cells that you can adjust according to the position of the sun to collect more power.

But maybe in parallel there’ll be more radical developments, where parts of our city realize new perspectives from the 21st century. If you ask me, that’s only possible through infrastructure. Radical changes only come about through things we have to learn the hard way. We’re seeing that now with the discussion on nuclear power plants: We already knew it wasn’t possible to supply the world using nuclear power — even before the disaster in Japan — because its permanent disposal isn’t guaranteed for thousands of years. But a change in thinking only comes about if the knife’s at your throat and your throat’s already been half slit — then you get a panicky reaction. That’s the way of the world and human nature: more reactive than active."


Lovely space designed by this Canadian firm, based in Vancouver. Garden City Park was completed in 2008 and is really an excellent use of space promoting creative play.

Check out more photos here. Their blog is worth checking out as well.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Update: The High Line

The initial design concepts were revealed yesterday for the continuation of the High Line in New York, into the rail yards section.

"The rail yards section will extend the High Line’s distinctive design vocabulary established south of West 30th Street, evoking the High Line’s history as an active freight rail line, and the unique self-seeded landscape that grew up between the tracks when the trains stopped running in the 1980s."

Really exciting stuff. It will clearly transform the neighbourhood and surrounding areas. Check out more photos on their website.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Bjarke Ingels

Brilliant TED talk by the Danish architect, Bjarke Ingels of BIG.


Oh, and I thought the website that the previous video was posted on is brilliant. Every city should have one.

" is an interactive mapping website that captures and presents personal video accounts of the life and culture of New York City in order to create an intimate, evolving, and complete portrait of this great city. Users upload videos geographically, building the first fully interactive video map of New York City."

How about if a city had a mapping website where people could see where play opportunities could occur, where kids could find the most interesting way home from school, f.x. through a wildlife corridor, through to an area where they could meet their friends, a better/safer way to cycle home......... the possibilities are endless.

An Afternoon at the playground

Courtesy of a 5 year old... wonderful stuff. Found here.

Via Tim Gill.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Love Outdoor Play

has new leadership. The original owners from the Geography Collective have handed it over to Play England and it is also backed by Free Time Consortium.

One of their first posts was this letter that was sent out all over the tinterweb..... excellent stuff.

SIR – We welcome the Government’s attempts to simplify the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum, for children from birth to the age of five, but there is widespread concern about the direction of the current revision.

There is a need to consider the central place of imaginative, spontaneous play, and of young children’s physical development in the curriculum.

We must also look at the “schoolification” of early childhood, with its over-assessment and excessive monitoring. Controversial “early learning goals” are putting premature emphasis on cognitive learning.

Parents are under undue pressure to prepare children for formal schooling, according to a system too inflexible to cater for the highly diverse developmental needs of young children. Many feel disquiet about commercial influences and the statutory imposition of inappropriate computer experience on young children.

There should be ways to pursue equality without imposing an indiscriminate compulsory framework upon all children, irrespective of their needs.

Today we are launching Early Childhood Action, with the support of around 50 major figures and organisations, to form a coalition of those in the early years sector. We will be drafting an alternative curriculum document to build on the positive aspects of the Early Years Foundation Stage, while addressing its key shortcomings.

Dr Richard House
University of Roehampton
Philip Pullman
Sue Palmer
Baroness Greenfield
University of Oxford
Kim Simpson
Montessori teacher and counsellor/coach
Grethe Hooper Hansen
Ex-president, Society for Effective Affective Learning
Dr Jayne Osgood
London Metropolitan University
Ed Mayo
Co-author, Consumer Kids
Philip Parkin
General Secretary, Voice
Penelope Leach
Birkbeck College, London
Agnes Nairn
EM-Lyon Business School and co-author, Consumer Kids
Professor Emeritus Janet Moyles
Early Years and Play Consultant
Pie Corbett
Literacy specialist and author
Sue Gerhardt
Dr Aric Sigman
Child health education lecturer
Linda Pound
Early Years Consultant and writer
Dr Maria Robinson
Author, Understanding Behaviour and Development in Early Childhood
Robin Balbernie
Infant mental health specialist
Sally Goddard Blythe
Director, Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology, Chester
Dr Andrew Lockett
Early Years Consultant

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Faberge Big Egg Hunt : UK

What a fantastic way to celebrate art, London, the great outdoors and at the same time contribute to some great charities.

I'm a big Rob Ryan fan so would love to find his egg, but there are so many great designs. If you have the good fortune to be in London, good luck.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Drunk animals

From the sublime to the ridiculous.... I saw this film when I was 8 or 9 and it was a B movie to, ..........actually I can't remember the main movie, but I have never forgotten this, that says something......

Drunk animals, made me laugh for days.... It's so nice to find it again.


I read this blog regularly and am surprised every time I do because it is so insightful. Today I was struck by his latest post and this quote:

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” by Henry Thoreau.

I hope it's not true but some days I know that it is.....