Welcome to the Colleen Kelley Nature Discovery Play Yard

Come visit the Colleen Kelley Nature Discovery Play Yard, located on the Hitchcock Center’s campus, at any time with your family, bring your fellow teachers to learn about design and resources, and most importantly have fun here with the kids in your life!

A place for learning and playful discovery.
A place to experiment and create.
A place to get messy, creative, imagine, and take risks!
A place for children and adults together to recapture energy, joy, and possibility  in outdoor play.
Play is crucial for the healthy development of children’s brains, bodies and spirits.
This natural play environment creates more opportunities for children to play and grow.

Thank you to all the friends, relatives, parents, teachers, children, and loving community members who helped make this possible! The Play Yard was designed and created with the help of Owen Wormser and many dedicated volunteers.

For more information about the importance of play and why we chose each element in the discovery yard use the resources below to read research on their benefits. These resources are also described on educational signs within the Colleen Kelley Nature Discovery Play Yard.

The Nest, Todd Lynch
Found plant materials, 2020 and 2023

The Nest is an ecological art installation of woven branch sculpture inspired by bird’s nests. The materials were harvested from construction sites and include branches of birch, pine, oak, witch hazel to represent successional landscape ecology process. No human-made binding materials or reinforcement were used to create this piece and at the end of its 2-3 year lifespan the Nest can be composted.

For more information, click here to visit Todd’s website. 

About the Importance of a Discovery Yard as an Early Educational Learning Tool

A Child’s Right to Play

Beyond Science

Remove the Bubble Wrap

The Gift of Wonder

Kids in STEM

Outdoor Play

The Return of Play

Family Play Plans

Embracing Rough and Tumble Play

What Preschools Need Now is a Dose of Nature

Life After Nature Preschool

Nature-Based Outdoor Learning at Hitchcock

Throughout the Hitchcock Center’s campus are nature-based activities to engage young bodies and minds. Below are a list of these areas and links with more information on why these spaces are important in developing the whole child in the outdoors.

Mud Kitchen and Mud Masters

Climbing Logs

Willow Huts






Natural Weaving

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Hitchcock Center for the Environment