Discovery Forest

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Musings from the Meadows 11/9/17

Today I want to chat a little more about Oxbow’s Discovery Forest – our version of a nature playscape.  Nature playscapes are, in effect, playgrounds designed to connect people to nature.  Some have virtually no fabricated elements and simply enhance the access to natural site features. Others, however, have augmented realities that diversify the experiences through the recreation of nature or ecological processes.  The Discovery Forest at Oxbow Meadows, constructed on a portion of a previous landfill site, would represent the latter category.  There are second growth hardwood trees and additional planted trees, shrubs and herbaceous flowering plants.  Low spots in the topography naturally collect and accumulate for periods providing ephemeral pools that harbor frogs and salamanders.  There are butterflies, spiders, lizards and birds for curious eyes to discover.

There are also fabricated objects that mimic either animals or processes.  We have an oversized nest (with eggs), turtle, frog and ant sculptures that can exercise both the muscles and the imagination of young visitors. The elevated system of troughs allows young engineers to examine and dam water flow.  The 8’ alligator cast is also a great photo opportunity for nature lovers of all ages.


We believe that providing access to nature (even if it is augmented), in a safe and partially controlled environment, will maximize the number of parents and young children that are exposed to the environment and concepts that shape the world around us.  The ultimate nature playscape is, of course, a national forest, or remote stream wilderness.  Yet these are not available to all, and we hope to provide some connection with nature through our Discovery Forest. We hope you will agree that devoting time and expense to such a venture is worthwhile.  Consider the following:

While studying 65 preschool children in a nature playscape through video, Leslie Kochanowski and Victoria Carr (2014) demonstrate how child directed play in such a setting help develop “problem solving, self-regulation, and engagement”, and fosters the development of self-determination.  These flexible learning environments that engage imagination and creativity, may be just the opportunity young children need to be prepared for their formal education.

If you believe this opportunity is of value for the residents and visitors to the Chattahoochee River Valley, as do we, consider helping us raise additional funds to help maintain and expand the Discovery forest.  We would like to add a beaver lodge that children could explore (see artist rendering below), a recirculating stream, a small elevated platform/deck that extends out over the ephemeral wetlands, signage and other features.  Honestly, we are limited only by our financial resources, as the creative ideas continue to mount.  We are excited to bring this opportunity to Oxbow Meadows, to Columbus State University, and to you.

Please come out to see our progress and help us move forward.  Remember….

In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught. (Baba Dioum, 1968)

Thank you, Dr. Mike Dentzau, Executive Director and Assistant Professor.


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