First Indoor Nature Walk at Marston Court

Thursday, 29 August, 2019

My summer internship with the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare allowed me to create my first Indoor Nature Walk at Marston Court, a care home in north Oxford. From day one, the care home was enthusiastic in participating in each step of the process from one-on-one interviews down to what color paint should be added in the final touches. During the three months I was an intern, I worked diligently to ensure the walk was completed by Marston Court’s annual Garden Party on August 10th. With everyone’s help, the deadline was easily met and the Indoor Nature Walk was a great success.

To start the process in June I conducted interviews with residents and staff to get to know their community and ask them their thoughts on bringing nature indoors. The one-on-one conversations allowed me to figure out how to change original ideas into something people at Marston would enjoy and use. My favorite part of the process was taking information from interviews and information from my coursework over the years to generate a design that would be engaging and also beneficial for health. For example, at the University of Michigan, I learned that time spent actively engaging with nature can increase your ability to pay attention throughout the day. Knowing this, I created a space underneath the stairs that brought elements residents and staff expressed interested in, such as bird feeders and a water feature, which would allow for such engagement with nature indoors.

The weeks leading up to the garden party were filled with multiple visits to Marston Court to build the Indoor Nature Walk. As the final pieces fell into place the corridor at Marston transformed into a whole new space. I received a lot of positive comments on the art while installing such as, “this reminds me of where I grew up”, “I like passing by this one, it makes me think of my mom”, and “I like the sound of the water, it really is relaxing and calming to me.” The walk was already making a positive impact and it wasn’t even opening day yet.

At Marston Court’s Garden Party, the walk was completed and ready for residents to use. Residents, staff, and visitors can experience the walk by first going down the main corridor decorated to create the illusion of experiencing winter, spring, summer, and autumn. Past the main corridor, nature continues indoors with moss, a water feature, and window bird feeders, which provide further points of engagement. Along the walk, there are elements to engage all of the senses, which visitors at Marston can read about in an informational leaflet, also attached to the bottom of this newsletter. The walk ends at a mural of the English countryside with a sign encouraging residents to enjoy the outdoor courtyard. In the upcoming year, Marston Court plans to expand the Indoor Nature Walk with an herb garden to accompany their bunny and budgies.

A true research project’s work is never done especially when working closely with a community. While the Indoor Nature Walk installation is complete, my work with Marston Court continues, for my hope is to revisit the UK and truly see how nature indoors has impacted the wellbeing of the Marston community. My overall goal is to use the Indoor Nature Walk as a template that can be applied to future care homes, bringing more elders and their staff the benefits of the outdoors.

I am incredibly grateful to the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare for believing in me and supporting me as I carried out the Indoor Nature Walk project. Thank you to Marston Court for letting me transform your space and thank you to the University of Michigan for the funding to make such change.

Julia Glassman