LEARNING LANDSCAPE Program ~ September 13-17, 2021

Learning Landscape

LEARNING LANDSCAPE Program ~ September 13-17, 2021

LEARNING LANDSCAPE Program ~ September 13-17, 2021 2560 1920 Strawbale Studio

In mid September 2021, a group of educators came together for 5 days of activities to explore and build a Learning Landscape that would provide youth with a creative place to explore and engage. Michael Mallon envisioned the project, procured a grant, and invited a TEAM.

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Full Photo Album

Day 1 The Team gathered . . .
at Michael’s Playscape on Dolphin Street in the Brightmoor community of Detroit. Deanne from Strawbale Studio brought her background in natural building and art…providing designs, skills and materials. Mike brought his background in fine arts, graffiti arts & community art-making. Patrick came with skills in the healing arts, and Alex, with years of creative education and building, and Michael a creator of environments and empowering programs for youth.  

We went over design ideas, made decisions on locations, dug some test holes and created a new Activity Area in the South East corner of the playscape. We re-arranged some existing play structures trimmed back the Trees of Heaven to open out the space, processed the cuttings, leveled the ground, dug a pit and located clay/sand soil, and installed the posts for a Learning Wall.

Day 2:  The Team came to the Strawbale Studio land . . .
for a day, and harvested natural materials to bring back to the Playscape in the Brightmoor neighborhood of Detroit to make our Learning Landscape projects.

We harvested live sapling trees for building “Quad Pods”, subsoil for making earthen scuptures, and rocks for setting the foundation posts of a Learning Wall… and also toured the natural buildings and grounds at Strawbale Studio. 

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Day 3 & 4: The projects were developed and built . . .
over the next few days as a variety of Quad Pods were constructed of the saplings, purchased cedar poles and bamboo poles. The poles were connected by the use of lashing knots taught by Deanne. A Monkey Bridge construction was explored…; connecting two of the sapling quad pods with assistance came from Michael’s father, an previous Eagle Scout Leader!

The Playscape now has the infrastructure and skills are in place for students to continue this construction process on site.

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Day 5: We toured the homestead and permaculture gardens of Mike Reid. . .
and saw a wide variety of artistic and natural expressions that support nature and contribute to well-being at his place, just a foot-walk away in Brightmoor!

At noon, Youth from Upland Hills School came and learned how to mix and sculpt with clay/sand subsoil. Their sculptures, shaped on boards, or attached to trees served as practice, while adding “enchantment” to the playscape.

To make this Earth Sculpting opportunity . . .
a ½ inch sifting screen was constructed, a 1/4” screen donated, and materials are now on-site to also make an 1/8th inch screen.

…a pit was dug in the earth on tthat quadrant of the land, where we tested the soil and found it to be a good balance of materials (clay & sand) for sculpting.

The Playscape now has the full infrastructure to do soil harvesting, sifting, mixing & sculpting for future students!

After the program ended on Friday . .
the Team went together to see the Stick Sculpture Installation being created by world-famous artist Patrick Dougherty with assistance from local Detroit volunteers. We became part of that volunteer crew for a few hours and helped prepare the saplings used to construct this amazing sculpture.
(Photos & description at this BLOG post.)

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The week was full, with foraging, constructing, creating, sharing …

and HOPE…. as we imagined these ideas being made available to communities and schools.

Full Photo Album


MORE INFO about the Learning Landscape GRANT and the TEAM:

Wording from the Grant which supported this Learning Landscape Project:

For the past few years, we’ve been building a Mythic Adventure Playscape.  This playscape includes a tree fort, a climbing structure that doubles as a stage, an outdoor greenhouse classroom, as well as shaping the landscape with hills and tunnels.  This is an exciting time for us to be taking things to the next level, as the basic infrastructure is in place and we can really get creative.

The experience will grow our education staff past traditional teaching methods and into areas of building interactive outdoor learning landscapes that take on a life of their own.  Participants will grow to see the landscape as teacher, as well as how to set up systems and physical infrastructure that invite real curiosity and accessibility.  Each participant will develop new skills in the more difficult work of “setting the stage” for the flow of learning to happen.  We hope that our experiments here will someday transfer to the landscapes of school playgrounds, childcare centers, community parks, etc.  

We are a growing collective of creatives, educators, and builders who believe that schools are essential spaces to build cultures of connection and generate new pathways for growth. We all work in sectors of education, community building, and creative place making, coming together in special consideration for our schools this coming year.

Michael Reid is a maker extraordinaire, working with schools and churches to build outdoor classrooms, innovating learning systems for the Brightmoor Makers, and leading community mural projects with the College of Creative Studies.

Alex Moore is a dancer builder educator adventurer. She has taught dance in schools for 10 years and led students on experiential adventure programs around the world with Atlas Workshops and National Geographic Student Expeditions. She is a builder in every
sense of the word, whether what is needed is building rainwater catchments and gardens or building creative lessons for movement and connection.

Michael Mallon, a masterful experience architect, brings 20 years of experiments in shaping landscapes of learning. From frst steps as a classroom teacher and professional clown, to founding the Superhero Training Academy and authoring original curriculum and adventure quests that spanned campuses at Red Cloud Indian School, cultural coherence for corporate staff at Zingerman’s, and parks and Mythic Playscapes in the Brightmoor neighborhood of Detroit.

Deanne Bednar, educator, artist, and renowned natural builder, co-founder of the Strawbale Studio and for the past 25 years, coordinated and co-created workshops, trainings, and community building projects like the Kensington Kids Cottage, the Strawbale Fairy Forest, and countless beautiful earth sculpted benches, small shelters, nature art, and sustainable living systems

Patrick & Jen – artists and healers, traveling world-wide, joined in as they could.

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