Therapeutic Play Space

Whatcom Center for Early Learning (WCEL) For children with special needs


WCEL is a center for children with special needs, birth to 5 years old and their parents. They dreamed of an outdoor environment loaded with sensory experiences including a sand and water area, textured path, herb garden, sound exploration, flowers, shrubs, berms and more.

Local Materials, Local Help

We utilized many local materials in the construction of the play environment. We gathered boulders from a local river to construct a sand and water sculpture, driftwood from Bellingham Bay for climbing and decoration, and planted dozens of native plants. The end result is a beautiful space for both the children and their parents. Features include a raised herb garden, a trike track, a slide embedded in a grassy berm, decorative grasses, a playhouse, a mini treehouse, a sand and water play area, a deck with trellis, a “wobbly walk”, a textured path, a quiet area, a talk tube and more.


“Planet Earth Playscapes was a pleasure to work with from first to last. I can’t imagine having done this with anyone else. The process of planning and building our new outdoor environment, our playground, stretched over a year. From beginning to end Rusty Keeler’s skills as facilitator, artist and designer, innovator, and project manager lead us from our first hazy ideas to a finished project that is the joy of kids and families and the pride of our agency.

“Our process consisted of an initial site visit by Rusty when he observed the children and the agency at play and work. During that initial time together, we translated our written list of features into a working, diagrammatic plan. From that point on, from opposite ends of the country, we worked by phone and fax to hone our initial plan. Rusty’s excellent communication skills as well as his ability to draw, to get concepts down on paper in a “discussable” visual format made it all possible.”

-Candy Meacham, Occupational Therapist, Whatcom Center for Early Learning

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