A forecast for thunderstorms on July 23 forced Wildrock to move its weekly Nature Pop-Up Play Program at Greenstone On 5th indoors.
Carolyn Schuyler, Wildrock’s executive director, said the local nonprofit is committed to promoting health and wellness through creative play— even when the weather doesn’t cooperate.
“More people are understanding that free imaginative play is important for all developmental milestones in childhood,” Schuyler said. “Kids are not getting much time for that anymore.”
Schuyler said that thousands of children have visited Wildrock’s outdoor playscape near Shenandoah National Park since it opened to the public in 2017. Charlottesville City Schools will bring all students in its preschool program on two field trips to Wildrock during the upcoming school year.
The Nature Pop-Up Play Program is designed to bring similar play experiences to children in Charlottesville who can’t easily visit Wildrock in rural Albemarle County. 
Wildrock’s pop-up play set includes assorted building blocks and cardboard boxes, as well as pots, pans and a toy cash register that students can use while pretending to cook or run a business. 
Paige Lindblom, a teacher at Johnson Elementary School and a board member for Wildrock, said each group of children sets up the cardboard structures in a unique arrangement.  
“It shows the creativity of each kid,” Lindblom said.
Schuyler said Nature Pop-Up Play can provide an alternative to school playground equipment and activities, which tend to remain static.
“Kids tend to get bored with it, and it favors kids with strong motor skills,” Schuyler said. “Students can change the Pop-Up Play area to meet their needs. … A kid who is a more imaginative, creative leader might have a chance to shine.”
Wildrock also brought the Nature Pop-up Play Program to the Cherry Avenue Boys & Girls Club this summer. The program is supported with a grant from the Junior League of Charlottesville. 

Josh Mandell graduated from Yale in 2016 and has been recognized by the Virginia Press Association with five awards for education writing, health, science and environmental writing and multimedia reporting.