What do you call a ‘jungle gym’ when it’s actually in a …marsh? These RPTA students can tell you.

A group of Western Illinois University-Quad Cities students recently put the finishing touches on a project that gave them class credit for working outdoors, creating something for kids, and improving a part of the Quad Cities community.

And perhaps even more interesting for nature-lovers: they did the entire thing with almost 100-percent natural materials.

“My classmates and I were taking a geographic information system (GIS) class last fall (2016), Site Planning, and we had to design something for our final project,” explained Maddie Kull, a senior recreation, park and tourism administration (RPTA) major from Morrison, IL. “It just so happened that around the same time, Nahant Marsh received a donation to create a natural play area for children who visit the marsh.”

Kull and the rest of the group members worked from the beginning of their class in the fall semester, and into the summer, to create an all-natural “playscape.”

“Nahant wanted an area that was safe and engaging which would spotlight the area’s natural landscape,” added Jennifer Swofford, an RPTA major from Coal Valley, IL. “The request fit perfectly with our class’s emphasis on wise land-use¬†through inclusive community recreation and conservation.”

Maddie Kull at the Nahant Marsh “playscape”

What’s That Word?

“We use the word “playscape” instead of “playground” because, rather than this being an area separate from its surroundings in what it offers, it blends the natural elements of the marsh into a space that encourages free play and imaginative interaction with the environment,” Swofford explained. “Many of us on the project have very fond memories of playing in nature as children, so this allowed us tap into our experiences in a fun and creative way.”

photo of an outdoor playground made of all-natural materials

Wiki-up and wingspan: Nahant Marsh all-natural playscape created by WIU-QC students

What’s That Stuff?

The all-natural playscape consists of

  • a living fence made of different bushes all with edible fruits,
  • a large balance beam,
  • stepping stumps,
  • a wikki-up, which is a Native American hut made up of brushwood or covered with mats (“We created ours with willow saplings from the marsh,” Kull explained),
  • a loose play-area where children can play with cut-up pieces of small logs, and
  • bird silhouettes kids on which kids measure their “wingspan”

But Didn’t They Have to Kill Some Nature to Make Something out of Nature?

“Most of the materials used to make this project were gathered here at the marsh,” said Jevonnah Prashaw, Nahant Marsh Education Center natural resources manager, who oversaw the construction.They cut willows and used them to make the wikki, the stepping stones, and balance beam, and the loose play logs were all from trees here at the marsh that were taken down either because they were hazard trees or were non-native (a lot of it was mulberry, green ash, and boxelder). The ‘living border’ around the playscape is made of native shrubs, including aronia berry, hazelnut, serviceberry, and crab-apple.”

Prashaw noted the improvement that the playscape brings to the site. “It adds an enriching experience to the younger children that visit the marsh and gives them a chance to play with and experience natural materials in a safe learning environment,” she said.

Another fulfilling achievement from the project was working with RiverStone Group of Moline to secure a donation of crushed limestone to use as substrate, said Kull, who is also minoring in environmental studies.

“The best thing about this project for me was being part of it every step of the way,” Kull said. “I was there from the very beginning until the very end, and it’s wonderful seeing your ideas actually come to life!”

What RPTA Work Is All About, Inside and Outside the Classroom

“The class project was designed around wise land-use,” Swofford said. “There were so many things that I enjoyed both while in the class and while doing the project. The class is extremely helpful in focusing on all of the considerations that arise during park planning. Not only do you learn about the physical and technical aspects of planning through GIS, but you also incorporate the human and conservation side of planning that allows you better serve the community in a thoughtful and educated way.”

Swofford said she also enjoyed putting the classroom work into a collaborative, practical application.

“We worked as a team to create, work, and present our plan as would any company,” she said. “It was very helpful in shining a light on what we are able to do well and what considerations we should make in the future. Our professor, Rob Porter, did an excellent job of guiding us when necessary, but giving us enough freedom to experience the project from a professional point of view.”

Swofford reflected on what she’ll take away from the project overall.

“The greatest thing I learned from both the project and the class is that wise land use is really a balancing act wherein you must consider many different elements of planning,” she said. “Recreation is not always about what attracts the most people to an area, but how well both the community and environment is cared for when they do come. Effective planners have to take into account all aspects of a landscape and community to bring a service that will be both fun and functional, while being considerate of the surrounding environment.”

Summer Love

Even once the project was finished, Kull was happy to remain at the Marsh this summer as an intern doing animal care as an intern.

“We have a variety of reptiles and amphibians that call the education center their home,” she said. “I also work on the natural resource team, working on restoring prairie and making sure the marsh is a thriving healthy ecosystem. I’ve fallen too deeply in love with the animals and the marsh to leave!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spotted on the way to work…

Usually, when this University Relations staffer (Alison) drops off her car to be worked on in the shop, she hitches a ride to work in the company’s van. Today, however, it was so beautiful, a cool and dewy fall morning, she decided to walk to work in Sherman Hall at Western Illinois University, about 1.2 miles away.

On her way to work, she noticed the Community Gardens Initiative started by a WIU professor–a county-wide project involving McDonough County Housing Authority residents–surviving in their blue plastic baby-pool planters, despite last night’s frost warning, and decided to snap a picture. (Please forgive her for capturing her own shadow as well.)

Thumbs up to Professor Rob Porter and the community members who kept a cool, creative idea going this summer and into fall.

cell-phone picture of community garden tubs

Never mind the photographer...please notice the plants!

Caring for Col. Rock

Col. Rock, the newest member of the Leatherneck family, hasn’t even arrived on campus yet and already he’s a star. But once he gets here, where will he live? Who will take care of him?

picture of Colonel Rock at 8 weeks old

Col. Rock, here at 8 weeks old, will arrive in Macomb on Saturday, May 15.

picture of Joe Roselieb

Joe Roselieb, assistant director of residential facilities, will welcome Col. Rock to his new home.

While the 10-week-old bulldog puppy will one day have the important job of riding in convertibles during Homecoming parades and making the rounds at football games, he still, of course, will need an “assistant.”

Enter Joe Roselieb, Western’s assistant director of residential facilities. Roselieb should have plenty of school spirit to be up to the job: he graduated from WIU with bachelor of arts in interdisciplinary studies in 2007, was hired to his position in 2008, and earned a master’s degree in recreation, park and tourism administration (RPTA) in 2009.

Find out how he became the keeper of Colonel Rock–and leave us your comments and questions–below!

Q&A

Can you tell us how you got this important new addition to your job duties?

It started with one of our football players, Victor Visoky, (a senior law enforcement and justice administration major from Northbrook, IL) when he was thinking of a way to try to generate more school spirit. Victor is from a big bulldog family; they have three they’ve adopted, rescued, or inherited. Then Victor bought one from the Siess Ranch in Kansas. Anyway, he was thinking about Western having that tradition of a four-legged mascot like some schools have, and his dad, George, just kind of took off. He contacted the Siess Ranch, he contacted the local [veterinarians], he got everyone on board. So then it came down to, “Who’s gonna take care of it?” So then, my director, John Biernbaum (University Housing and Dining Services), was at a Leatherneck Club meeting, and they were talking about it and John brought up my name.

So why did your boss suggest you? Are you a dog lover?

Well, my grandmother runs an animal shelter in Sterling (IL), and we always had animals when I was growing up. We’ve kind of accidentally become a lab family: we have three black labs. John loves them, too, and just because he’s my boss and we’ve talked about it before, he knew I was interested in dogs. I’ve always wanted a bulldog, but I knew they were kind of cashy–and my grandmother always said, “Don’t get a breed, get a rescued dog,” so that was always instilled in me. So then this opportunity came up. At first, I kind of met it with some resistance. I had three pages of questions, and when George called me we ended up talking for 45 minutes. After that, I was kind of excited and thought, “Why not?”

Will Col. Rock live with you in your house or apartment? Will he have a doghouse?

He’ll be indoors at my house. I bought my first house last March, and it’s really close to campus. I should never have an excuse not to come to work [laughs]. There’s a kennel in the house, there’s a big ‘W’ rug in front. It’s decorated with a Rocky logo above it just like the football players have above their lockers.

Are you going to have any help with taking care of him?

Yeah, my girlfriend will help out a little bit. She graduated from Western too, and she’s actually coming back here to do her master’s degree soon, so it’s perfect timing! I’ve found that so many people are excited about it, they just want to be part of it, be involved somehow. We’ve had a kennel in town offer to take care of him in case I ever need to leave for the weekend. I’m getting two to three people a day volunteering to babysit, walk him, etc., if I ever need help.

Will you be training the Colonel? Will he go to obedience school? What will be some of the day-to-day and larger responsibilities in taking care of him?

Obedience school is definitely on the plan. We’re still talking about it right now. I kind of want to get settled in, get to know him, get him into All Pets and get him checked out. Maybe we’ll do just a couple of sessions from some of the books that some of my grandma’s contacts have given me: just “sit,” “stay,” a few of those basic things. Potty training will be a big thing. That’s probably the biggest thing I’m not looking forward to.

Right now it will be about trying to get him acclimated to as many people as possible. It will be a little bit of a challenge to find events to take him to, since the school year just ended. But since he’s a puppy, he will naturally attract people when I’m out walking him, which will be nice. I’m going to bring him to Summer Orientation and Registration (SOAR), so that will take care of two things at once: get people excited about our new mascot, and also get him acclimated. It will also be about how I’m going to get him acclimated to environmental things he’ll need to become immune to, like… the cannon going off on the football game.

When will you actually meet your new “housemate”? How are you feeling about it right now?

I’m getting him at 11:30 a.m. on [May] 15th, [before Col. Rock will make his official debut at the Leathernecks Baseball game]. There are a lot of expectations. I know there’ll be some frustrations dealing with a new puppy, but I’m excited to see how people interact with him, how things go with him. I’m excited, I’m nervous…everything.