School in Illinois breaks ground on new playground designed by Helle Nebelong

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Yesterday, the staff and students at Colene Hoose Elementary School in Normal, Illinois were joined by the donor, Charlie Jobson, and planted the first new trees for the school’s new natural playground.  

The natural playground rethinks the entire 16-acre grounds as a place for learning, exploration, and play. The design by the well-known Danish landscape architect Helle Nebelong includes an Alphabet Labyrinth, a Snail-Shaped Mound, a River Garden, an Amphitheater, and several multi-functional outdoor classrooms, and play settings. Logs, boulders, sand, pebbles, various trees and shrubs – including edible plants – and the meadow, form the basis of the space.  

“This will be a wonderful space to engage children in the natural world and inspire them to learn, create, and have daily access to nature,” said Ms. Nebelong. “The seasonal changes and multi different textures will open up and widen the student’s senses and enrich their lives with a myriad of wonderful miracles, they will keep in mind forever. I feel grateful for having the opportunity to participate with my design and the many underlying considerations”.  

Charlie Jobson grew up in the town of Normal and has returned to create a natural playground park to honor his mother and father who lived in the community for 40 years. “I believe this project sets a new standard for school and community playgrounds in Normal, Illinois, and America.” Mr. Jobson generously donated $5.1 million dollars to create this new space.  

Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds based in Ontario, Canada, is managing the project that would be finished by the end of September. 

Colene Hoose students have participated in the project with personal drawings of fish that are transformed into a huge mosaic river by mosaic artist Robin Brailsford, California, and will become a central feature in the new playground. 

Photo Connor Wood, Pantagraph