CityStudio - Installation

The Outdoor Learning Project

Nature as a Teacher — Realizing the potential of
urban parks by envisioning community-driven
'outdoor learning spaces' in parks in Vancouver



Rebecca Chen
Danielle Devries
Joshua McGee

View the report


Program: CityStudio Vancouver, SFU's Semester in Dialogue
Collaboration Partners: Vancouver Parks Board, City of Vancouver
Description: Senior Academic Project
Project timeframe: 7 weeks

Role: User research, Ideation, Prototyping


Project Pitch

As part of CityStudio's first phase of the Outdoor Learning Project, my team created a large scale wind chime chandelier in the shape of a blackberry flower in order to help facilitate outdoor learning.  The wind chimes are constructed from the notoriously invasive species, Japanese Knotweed. We called it the "Blackberry Beacon".

Our aim was to shift the thinking surrounding ‘‘invasive species’ from problems that need to be solved to an opportunity for utilizing an abundant resource. This is closely aligned with Vancouver’s Rewilding Plan’s goals regarding hands-on conversations about materials and where they come from.



Experiential Learning

The Outdoor Learning Project is a pilot program led by CityStudio where students, community, city staff, and educators come together to imagine, design, and build spaces for community learning and gathering in Everett Crowley Park. My cohort consisted of 18 students, all coming from different majors and backgrounds.

Firstly, community members were invited to provide feedback about what structures would most benefit the park (if any). Secondly, my cohort partook in a 7-week program to explore outdoor learning and to create temporary outdoor learning prototypes in the park.

Throughout the process, we worked with the community to design and build semi-permanent learning spaces where teachers and students of all ages can have positive outdoor experiences in nature.



A Moment Out of Place

Beyond utilizing natural materials, this beacon aims to create a “Moment Out Of Place”, an idea expressed by local environmental artist, Sharon Kallis. This moment is designed to spark curiosity and wonder within the users of the park in a way that encourages people to use the space.


The Blackberry Beacon not only utilizes aesthetic beauty, but the calming tones of the chimes can be heard from a distance to draw people to the site and encourage exploration in the area around them. The beacon is located in a natural canopy of trees, overlooking the Fraser River and City of Richmond. A breeze can be felt flowing through the site at all times. The site offers three large rocks for passersby to sit down, relax, and take in the sounds of the space.

Community members and the public were invited to interact with the beacon on June 24, 2015 during the “Nature Show, Nature Tell” community event hosted by CityStudio at Everett Crowley Park.