Urban Forestry South has partnered with the Nature Explore program and the UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital in Gainesville, FL to develop a Nature Explore play garden for patients and families. The Nature Explore program (https://natureexplore.org/) seeks to create dynamic, nature-based play and learning spaces that apply research-based, field-tested design principles. Nature Explore is a program of the Dimensions Educational Research Foundation.
The main goal of this project is to design and create a Nature Explore garden at a medical center, with specially trained physicians and staff, who will actively promote positive health benefits of spending time in nature. Through this project, the U.S. Forest Service seeks to connect public land agencies, education providers, health care providers, families, communities, and businesses to the natural environment for conservation, education, and health promotion purposes. The project will also provide useful information for the Nature Explore program as they consider ways to adapt their outdoor classrooms for a hospital setting. Additionally, we hope that this project will provide beneficial information for other health facilities that are considering incorporating nature-based play spaces to benefit their patients.
Several research projects are in progress related to environmental monitoring and therapeutic design aspects of the site and future research will evaluate factors such as lowered anxiety medication use and increased patient experience after time in the Nature Explore garden. In addition to encouraging patients to spend time in the Nature Explore garden while at the hospital, the project also aims to encourage patients and their families to interact with nature in their communities once they are discharged from the hospital.