Paulo Freire Family Center
Holabird & Root
Hitchcock Design Group was sought out by Chicago Commons to transform their existing playground into a Nature Based Play Environment that encourages learning through play and supports the Reggio Emilia approach to early learning. Hitchcock Design Group led the design team, including several staff and administrators from Chicago Commons, through a master planning process to define the program and learning outcomes for the play environment.
The Master Plan defines separate age-specific play areas for the 184 children with age ranges from 8 weeks to 7 years and will also be used by school-age children for after-school and summer programs. Key elements in the nature-based play environment include an outdoor classroom with stump seating, a raised wood stage, climbing boulder, embankment slides, outcropping stone, wood cookie steppers, and grass-covered knoll. Flexible spaces such as the wood stage provide a platform for dance, reading, plays, and “loose parts” play with materials such as wood blocks, sticks, and seeds. A winding loop path serves as a tricycle track and circumscribes a central lawn for running and for gross-motor activities.