Leslie Science & Nature Center unveils plans for interactive Nature Playscape

New $50K matching challenge launched

ANN ARBOR – Tree Town kids and kids-at-heart can anticipate a new, outdoor play space by Leslie Science & Nature Center.

Named Nature Playscape, the multi-year project has several different features and areas, including a 32-foot slide, tunnel and exploration and building area.

This summer, area children can see construction on the Active Zone, the Eagles’ Nest, the Messy & Loose Parts area, and Waterplay zone. Eventually, and if funding allows, the space will host a teaching pavilion and Treescape Climber space.

The project is funded by generous gifts, including a $150,000 donation from Duo co-founder Dug Song and Ann Arbor City Councilmember Linh Song. The Songs have also offered an additional $50,000 if matched by community members.

“We know firsthand with our own children the importance of safe outdoor spaces to explore together, and we are grateful for so many right here in our community, like the Leslie Science & Nature Center,” said Linh Song in a release.

Dug Song added: “We’re proud to support the Nature Playscape project and we challenge the community to join us to support this incredible outdoor space.”

Design for the new nature playscape at LSNC. (Leslie Science and Nature Center)

Built with an inclusive design, Nature Playscape was meant to be accessible to community members of various physical abilities, such as a 32-foot steel slide installed with materials “ideal for visitors with cochlear implants,” according to the space’s website.

The playspace also facilitated collaboration by including water features that require teamwork and multiple participants.

“By building the playscape in phases, we are able to install areas as we receive funding and allow the public to engage with it and enjoy it as we expand,” said LSNC Executive Director Susan Westhoff.

“The entirety of the playscape will remain free for everyone in our community to come enjoy together. We believe the Nature Playscape is a huge investment not just in our future, but in the future generations of our community. We see this as a place where children of all ages and abilities can learn and play with all of these diverse areas, materials and features through sensory, fine and gross motor experiences.”

The project was designed with input from nature playscape designer Rusty Keeler and was made to compliment playspaces in the local area. It is supported by several community partners such as the City of Ann Arbor, Michigan Arts and Culture Council, Toyota and Wacker Chemical Corporation, LSNC official said.

“Our Nature Playscape campaign will not only add a significant new, free feature to the landscape of Leslie Science & Nature Center, but it also helps us continue to serve as a leader in environmental education and nature-based experiences,” Westhoff added.

“Years of planning have gone into this project, with community input, volunteer and staff contributions and experts leading us to a final design that fulfills the vision of an expansive and engaging outdoor space. Markedly, this comes at a time when we all have benefited from and can appreciate the value of outdoor spaces. We are grateful to the Song family for their support of the next phase of the project, and ask the community to join us as we raise funds for the next section, an innovative outdoor teaching amphitheater.”

Dug Song added that the matching challenge intended to drive community involvement in the project through volunteerism and corporate or personal contributions.

Find more about Nature Playscape and the $50,000 matching challenge here.

About the Author:

Sarah has worked for WDIV since June 2018. She covers community events, good eats and small businesses in Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics from Grand Valley State University.