Leslie Science & Nature Center Announces NEW Nature Playscape- Ann Arbor

Leslie Science & Nature Center Announces NEW Nature Playscape- Ann Arbor

Photo Courtesy of Leslie Science & Nature Center.

The Leslie Science & Nature Center announces its new Nature Playscape, and invites the community to explore the space online or in-person as ongoing construction continues to expand its offerings.

The current outdoor site features an active play area including a tunnel, an underground slide, and a loose parts exploration area. In addition, LSNC announces that Ann Arbor residents Linh and Dug Song have stepped forward to support the project and continue its growth with the addition of a $150,000 gift to fund the water exploration area and a $50,000 matching challenge for the community. This gift comes from the Song Family Fund from the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation.

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

For the matching challenge, the Song family has committed $50,000 to the project if matched by community funds.

The Nature Playscape is designed with inclusivity in mind. Accessibility is built in as much as possible, allowing all individuals to have access to a majority of the space, and opt-in within their comfort level.

The future water play feature has several water pumps and includes an intentional design element requiring multiple children’s participation to engage enough water to use certain features. This encourages collaboration and facilitates different experiences depending on how many people are using the space at one time.

“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 Susan Westhoff, Executive Director, LSNC. “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.”


“This project is exciting and we encourage everyone to join us in making sure the full vision can become a reality, “ said Dug Song. “The matching challenge is meant to drive community members to get involved, and support is needed well beyond this match.

We hope to see many people participate through volunteer workdays, through their personal contributions or corporate partnerships, knowing this will be a space for all to enjoy for decades to come.”

“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,” said Westhoff. “

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.”

Created with input from the community, and creative design from world-renowned nature playscape designer Rusty Keeler, the organic design provides visitors with an evolving space, which will change with the seasons.

When creating the playscape, the LSNC team visited a number of playscapes in the immediate area, to ensure the creation of a complementary and not duplicative outdoor space. The project is supported by corporate and community partners including the City of Ann Arbor, Michigan Arts and Culture Council, Toyota and Wacker Chemical Corporation.

Questions or inquiries about the Nature Playscape can be directed to natureplay@lesliesnc.org. Donations can be made here https://cbo.io/d/donate.php?slug=lsnc

About the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum and Leslie Science & Nature Center

As a unified organization, the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum (AAHOM) and Leslie Science & Nature Center (LSNC) aim to challenge visitors to think “Maybe I Can ” when visiting our facilities and interacting in our programs. Together, we create moments of discovery that inspire curiosity, exploration, and respect for STEM to STEAM, the environment and natural world, and aviation and aerospace.

Our moments of discovery include opportunities to discover and create, utilizing the arts and an arts aesthetic to encourage a personal connection and social interaction to understand our world. We advance our mission through our interactive museum exhibits, wildlife and nature experiences, onsite and offsite programming, award-winning nation-wide videoconferencing programs, and public program performances that promote exploration and discovery, collectively extending our reach to over 400,000 people each year.

Lindsey Jenn

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