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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

FAIRBANKS FIELD OFFICE: Youth for Habitat- A summer job to remember

Region 7, August 29, 2013
Everett Darrow and Daniel Woolfe work on a driftwood obstacle course with the completed sandbox and labyrinth in the background.
Everett Darrow and Daniel Woolfe work on a driftwood obstacle course with the completed sandbox and labyrinth in the background. - Photo Credit: n/a
Youth for Habitat students Piper Brase and Daniel Woolfe confer on the design of the labyrinth.
Youth for Habitat students Piper Brase and Daniel Woolfe confer on the design of the labyrinth. - Photo Credit: n/a
A group celebration at the end of the project.
A group celebration at the end of the project. - Photo Credit: n/a

The Fairbanks, Alaska Youth for Habitat program in Region 7 is an annual program for area youth ages 13 and 14. Two entry-level sessions offer the students a wide variety of experiences helping with habitat restoration and aquatic research. In the two-week advanced session, returning students are given the challenge of creating a single project from design to implementation.
Seven students in the 2013 advanced program took on an ambitious project to design and create a natural playscape. The J.P. Jones Community Center in Fairbanks was chosen as the location due to its urban setting and lack of outdoor play facilities for area children.

A natural playscape was chosen for the project to help meet Service priorities to get young children reconnected with nature. Natural Playscapes are defined as an outdoor play space which incorporates natural materials, native plants, rolling hills, and trees with as few man-made components as possible.

Two intense days of research and discussion helped the student team decide on the components for their playscape. In the center would be a labyrinth with play structures around the edges including: a hill with stepping stones and an area for sledding; a sandbox surrounded with vertical stumps to double as a climbing structure; an obstacle course made of drift wood; spruce log benches; and a living willow tunnel leading into and at the center of the labyrinth. After a stressful presentation of their ideas and approval by the community center board of directors, just over six days remained to complete the plan!

 

Sub-teams of two students took the lead on different aspects of the playscape. They were each tasked with developing a plan of action including creating a materials list; locating sources for materials; developing a timeline for completion; and guiding the rest of the group through the construction phase. The team also chose to use abundant natural materials such as willow and driftwood from the Chena River to save money and build on our natural playscape theme.

The result was that participating students gained construction skills, learned about teamwork, and developed a great deal of confidence in their abilities to successfully complete a daunting challenge. In addition, they have the satisfaction of knowing they made a permanent improvement to an underserved part of our community and have given the gift of a safe and natural outdoor experience to other children.

Contact Info: Laurel Devaney, 907-456-0558, Laurel_devaney@fws.gov