Principals give back to school in Nashville

Elementary school principals from all over the country gathered in Nashville, Tenn., for the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) Annual Convention & Exposition held July 10-12. But before the Convention could kick off, we helped celebrate NAESP’s sixth annual Community Service Day. Together with nearly 100 elementary and middle school principals, we installed new playground equipment including a zip line-like component called the ZipKrooz™ and the OmniSpin® spinner at Inglewood Elementary School.

Proud to partner with the National Association of Elementary School Prinicpals for their Community Service Day.

“Inglewood Elementary is a neighborhood school serving bright and energetic students who will benefit greatly from this new playground,” said Carrie Mickle, principal of Inglewood Elementary School. “The ZipKrooz is one of the first in the area, and will be a draw to families to check out Inglewood Elementary and discover the exciting things taking place in our part of Nashville.”

We’re proud to have partnered with NAESP to bring play to schools across the nation. Learn more about our partnership here.

Expanding playgrounds with the JigJag Climber

We’re excited to introduce our newest climber—the JigJag Climber! If the name doesn’t grab your attention, the design certainly will! Available as a PlayBooster® of freestanding play component, kids will jig and jag their way up the JigJag Climber and then slide down a fire pole at the end.

Freestanding JigJag Climber

Available in a single or double configuration, the JigJag Climber is a high-value addition for new or existing playgrounds. It accommodates multiple kids at once, and will deliver a unique aesthetic by visually and physically expanding the footprint of any PlayBooster playstructure.

Learn more about the JigJag Climber and find sample designs here.

Help bring inclusive play to a Twin Cities community

Nearly 14 percent of American children have one or more special needs ranging from autism to cerebral palsy. Nationwide there’s a growing trend of communities, schools and organizations advocating for more inclusive playgrounds where kids of all abilities can play together. The Madison Claire Foundation is working diligently to raise funds to build Madison’s Place, the first all-inclusive and accessible playground in Woodbury, Minn.

Madison Claire Foundation

They now have a chance to secure new funding through the “All-Star Fans Choose” grant. The $500,000 grant is supported by Major League Baseball, the Minnesota Twins, the Twins Community Fund and the Pohlad Family Foundation. Even better, you can vote for the Madison Claire Foundation and help increase their chance to win! Fans can vote once per day from now through Thursday, July 11, and the winner will be announced during MLB All-Star Week.

Learn more about Madison’s Place and the Madison Claire Foundation.

Meet the professional: Michael Hecker

Michael Hecker, CPRP, parks and recreation director for the City of Elk River, Minn.We are honored to work with parks and recreation professionals around the world, and we’re constantly learning about fun and unique projects, obstacles faced and innovative solutions that they create to overcome challenges. This week, meet Michael Hecker, CPRP, parks and recreation director for the City of Elk River, Minn.

Q: How long have you been involved in the parks and recreation industry?
A: I’ve been in a department head/director role in parks and recreation for more than 20 years.
After I finished my master’s degree in recreation administration at Indiana University, I took my first position in the parks and recreation field in Connecticut. From there, I was in Dutch Harbor, Alaska; moved to Mason, Ohio, for 11 years; and now I’ve been in Elk River for nearly two and a half years.

Q: What have been some of your favorite initiatives to tackle since moving into parks and recreation?
A: In cities where I worked in the past, we created destination parks where families could gather for entire afternoons. And that was one of the things that needed to happen here in Elk River. We have many small neighborhood playgrounds, but there really wasn’t a destination playground where families could gather for hours of play and enjoyment. Orono Park was more than 25-years-old, so we were ready to replace it. We started saving money to invest into the park renovation, and the community jumped on board. Orono Park has become our destination playground and has been really successful. Families from all over come to visit Elk River.

Orono Park, Elk River, Minn.

Orono Park, Elk River, Minn.

Another really important initiative that the City of Elk River is working on currently is our parks and recreation master plan. We get a lot of requests from community members—whether it’s for programming, facilities, park amenities—and this master plan will help us determine priorities when it comes to future park improvements.

We’ve surveyed community members and held public forums to hear from our residents so that we understand what’s important to them. From there, we’ll put it into a plan so that we can easily illustrate to tax payers how we’re spending their dollars. The planning process is underway now, and we hope to have it completed by fall 2014.

Q: What has been an exciting change you’ve seen in the industry?
A: One of the biggest changes that I’ve seen in the industry is that organizations have to work together to be successful. We partner with lots of youth organizations to offer different programming options—the city provides the space and they deliver the program. While this has been an ongoing effort for many sports organizations, a new trend we’re seeing is that the youth organizations are offering scholarships to make participation more affordable for citizens.

Another aspect of partnerships in the parks and recreation industry is land acquisition. There is a prized property along the Mississippi River in Elk River that was assessed at more than $3 million. The City didn’t have dollars earmarked for the purchase of that land, but we were able to find funding by collaborating with the Conservation Fund, an American environmental non-profit with a dual charter to pursue environmental preservation and economic development, and other agencies within Minneapolis.

It’s important to create partnerships in this industry, and it’s more difficult to be successful if you don’t have them.

Q: What are some of your hobbies?
A: I’ve got a wife and five children, so I really enjoy spending time with them. My wife is from Idaho, so we enjoy driving out west to visit family. During those trips, we like to make stops at local and National Parks—one of our favorites is camping in Yellowstone National Park. We also like rollercoasters. When we lived in Ohio, we went to Kings Island near Cincinnati, which has The Beast, the world’s longest, wooden rollercoaster.ElkRIver_ElkLogo_blog

Another hobby that I’ve gotten into is digital scrapbooking. We take lots of photos on our trips, so I take them and put them into a movie/slide show for us to look back on.

Learn more about Michael and his work at the City of Elk River at www.ElkRiverMN.gov/parksandrec.

Creating an Inclusive Play Movement

Recreation Management kicked off its new Webinar Educational Series in February, which was designed to provide participants with an in-depth look at some of the top issues and challenges in the recreation industry. We’re proud to have sponsored the first webinar in the series, which discussed the best ways to bring inclusive play from imagination to reality.

Athan Downs, San Ramon, Calif.

Experts discussed methods for creating effective public/private partnerships, building funding and support for inclusive play, and ensuring that playground designs are truly inclusive—along with ways to facilitate playing together among children and caregivers of all abilities. Watch the recording, and then visit playlsi.com to learn more about our commitment to inclusive play.

Take flight with ZipKrooz™

Zip lines have become the fastest growing recreational sport in the world, and now one of our newest innovations brings that adventure to the playground! ZipKrooz™ is our inclusive zip line for playgrounds, and when paired with its accessible companion, ZipKrooz Assisted, it provides a truly inclusive play experience.

ZipKrooz

ZipKrooz lets kids zip from one end to the other, and back again for nonstop fun. With three lengths of track available, ZipKrooz and ZipKrooz Assisted can accommodate any playground or all three can be installed to offer users a graduated experience. Even better, when installed together ZipKrooz and ZipKrooz Assisted provide children of all abilities the feeling of flying side-by-side.

Double ZipKrooz

Learn more about ZipKrooz and ZipKrooz Assisted and see it in action below.

Celebrating Kiwanis One Day 2014

Tomorrow is Kiwanis One Day 2014, an event when Kiwanis members unite to complete hands-on community service projects around the globe. To celebrate all the work Kiwanis members do on One Day, and throughout the year, we’re reflecting on how our partnership has already allowed us to make a difference in many communities.

After two days of construction, two new school playgrounds were ready for students in Vancouver.

In June 2013, we worked together with Kiwanis and their collegiate service organization, Circle K International (CKI), to install playground equipment at two elementary schools in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Additionally, we awarded $25,000 in playground equipment to the Iola Kiwanis Club in Iola, Kansas, as part of our Make a Difference Through Play contest. The club will install the community’s first inclusive playground this month!

Kids in Iola, Kan., will benefit from the inclusive playground the Iola Kiwanis intends to build with the $25,000 award.

Learn more about our partnership with Kiwanis International, and connect with your local Kiwanis club to learn about volunteer opportunities and more.