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Williamsville creates a new Nature Play Area in Glen Park

Children in the 21st century spend free time a lot differently than Dave Bauer did in the 1960s, “when your parents let you out the door and they let you play in your neighborhood.”

Society has changed a lot for kids during the last half-century, including a growing reliance on organized sports and a growing dependence on computer technology.

Bauer, 68, a retired earth science teacher who lives in Williamsville, discovered during a recent summer with his grandkids, however, that one thing hasn’t changed for the younger set.

An avid curiosity.

Weeks exploring his backyard with his young charges led to him writing a children’s book, “What’s Under That Rock, Papa?” It also stirred another idea – forging a Nature Play Area in Glen Park, not far from his home.

Bauer will show off the new site – on the north side of Glen Avenue, opposite the falls – from 10 to 11 a.m. Nov. 16, during a Fall Nature Celebration designed for children ages 3 to 12, along with their parents.

Dave Bauer's grandchildren served as inspiration for the new Williamsville Nature Play Area and figured into the retired village resident's latest venture, The Change Circle. (Photo courtesy of Dave Bauer)

He credited Mayor Deb Rogers, who was a village board member when he approached her with the idea two years ago, and Ben Vilonen and his Department of Public Works staff, who completed the project in mid-September.

The quarter-acre patch, along the walking trail near a public restroom, makes creative use of tree trunks, tree stumps and big rocks.

“This is where children can come and hang and explore nature in unstructured play,” Bauer said. Light programs, starting with next weekend’s gathering, will take place occasionally, he said, but in coming months the village hopes visitors will enjoy discovering the new setting.

Bauer taught at Alden High School for 34 years before he retired in 2007. He spent another decade running his own company, Sustainable Earth Solutions, which helped several leading manufacturers in the region find ways to make their products in more environmentally supportive ways.

He got his teaching degree decades ago from SUNY Buffalo State and in recent years completed a master’s certification at its International School for Creative Studies.

Bauer has spent the past two years cultivating a new enterprise, The Change Circle, designed to stir more curiosity among people of all ages. He and a small team provide creative life coaching, mindfulness training and creative nature play.

Assisted living center residents have been among those to benefit from the teachings.

“We denigrate ageism in the Western World,” Bauer said. “Elders have way more capacity than they've been led to believe, and when they start living from that capacity, really interesting things are there for them to uncover. They’ve got this gold mine of resources intrinsically. They may have been collecting them their whole lives. With a little bit of support and coaching, you can begin to unearth this stuff and live from that place.”

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