Kiwanis Club of Poplar Bluff wins inclusive playground equipment from Legacy of Play® Contest

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We’re excited to announce that children and families with special needs in Poplar Bluff, Mo., will benefit from $25,000 in playground equipment won during the international Legacy of Play® Contest. The $25,000 award will help complete the City of Poplar Bluff’s main recreation space, Kiwanis Bacon Memorial Park, with inclusive playground equipment to accommodate children and families with special needs from the five surrounding counties.

Poplar Bluff, known as “The Gateway to the Ozarks,” is located along the Black River in Southeast Missouri. With a population of more than 17,000 residents, Poplar Bluff is the county seat and regional hub of education, health care and business.

“We are thrilled to have been awarded $25,000 for our inclusive playground project,” said Subrina Berger, president of Poplar Bluff Kiwanis club, who spearheaded the contest entry. “With the help and faith of our incredible Kiwanis club, we finally met the goal we set two years ago to create a space in Kiwanis Bacon Memorial Park where children with special needs, toddlers and older kids can play together without fear of being hurt or left out. I speak for the entire Poplar Bluff Kiwanis club when I say how much we appreciate this award.”

The Poplar Bluff Kiwanis club will complete its inclusive playground project on or around Kiwanis One Day in October 2017. One Day is Kiwanis International’s signature day of service during which many clubs participate in service projects benefitting their local communities.

Learn more about our partnership with Kiwanis International during the 101st Annual Convention June 23-26 in Toronto.

Case Study: Creating lasting relationships with play and recreation

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Client: City of Jonesboro Parks & Recreation Department

Designers: Sheri Seminary, playground designer at Landscape Structures Inc.

Goal: Create a Miracle League recreation complex that could act as a showcase for all other Miracle Leagues

Solution: Their vision came to life as a 20-acre recreation complex complete with a rubberized ball field for children and adults with special needs, an inclusive playground, a concession stand, restrooms and a quiet room designed especially for children with autism. The inclusive playground focuses on access and offering sensory-stimulating activities including the Sensory Play Center®, OmniSpin® spinner, Roller Table, We-Saw™ and Sway Fun® glider. Even more, the playground integrates lots of shade right into the playstructure.

Read more about how the City of Jonesboro brought their community together through inclusive recreation at the Jonesboro Miracle League Park.

Guest Blog: Inspiring creative play among kids

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In 2016, we introduced Smart Play®: Venti™, a smartly designed playstructure that packs 20 exciting activities into its compact size. Today, we’re happy to have Tory Roff, concept designer at Landscape Structures, as our guest blogger discussing how he and the product development team created the newest addition to our Smart Play line of playstructures.

The idea for the Smart Play line of playstructures was more an ethos about playgrounds as a whole… about creating a cohesive play environment. The criteria for this playground solution was a small footprint and budget, but a desire to serve a large population. So, we started with a blank slate without any rules, and asked ourselves how to design an environment that invites a dynamic play experience.

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The design started with the Cargo Net and strategically set the height of it so there is room for play underneath, allowing it to work as a trampoline above and it also acts as a hub for the rest of the play space. We built out from there in respect to circuits and routes so there are different ways to engage the whole of the system. Graduated challenge is built into Smart Play: Venti so that kids with a higher skill level can find challenges and still have a way to invent from it.

We spent a lot of time in the model space—virtual and scale models—working out the dimensions of the structure to really understand how every piece could be doing more. In modular playgrounds, a fire pole is always a fire pole. But good design considers what programming is happening around the fire pole so that kids can create another route and link two events as a cohesive experience rather than a series of segmented happenings. And that’s what’s happening with Smart Play: Venti. The Cabin Climber is an interior club house and an exterior ladder. The pods on the Cargo Net are a way-finding option through the structure, but also a place to stop and hang out. The Belt Hammock is a space for lounging, but also an escape route—it’s not big, it’s not obvious, but it is there.

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I was able to talk with students at Birchview Elementary School while they played, and they talked about their friend, Michael, who uses a mobility device. They were excited that he can actually use this equipment, and how it’s his favorite on the playground. Because the design is less scripted, there’s less expectation of how a user actually engages it. Smart Play: Venti allows for more natural inclusion through the addition of many access points and a centralized hangout location, which was one of our primary goals during the design process.

There is enough variety of activities in the playstructure so that kids feel like they can fill in the blank however they want. As designers, we had ideas and hopes of how everything would play out. But you have to engage it from a place of humility and know that there isn’t such a thing as intended use. Kids are infinitely more creative than we are, so it’s important that we give them a platform to express that.

Case Study: Smart playground design

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Client: Birchview Elementary School, Plymouth, Minn.

Designers: Tory Roff and Tom Keller, concept designers at Landscape Structures

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Goal: Create a modern design aesthetic on the playground to match the recently updated school building

Solution: Birchview Elementary School’s Principal Sam Fredrickson chose to install the Smart Play®: Venti® playstructure because of its modern aesthetic and the fact that it would accommodate an entire classroom. Smart Play: Venti packs 20 activities—from nets and slides to belts and climbers—into its design, and its compact size requires less space and surfacing material than typical playgrounds. Even more, the playground is designed using a smart use of materials, and provides challenges that promote physical development and strategic thinking among students.

Read more about how Birchview Elementary School brought play and design into the 21st Century with the installation of their new school playground equipment.

Guest Blog: Inspiring imaginative play through reading

In 2015, we collaborated with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC) in Prince George’s County, Md., to design a storybook-themed playground that encourages fun and learning. Today, we’re happy to have Brenda Iraola, landscape architect supervisor with MNCPPC, as our guest blogger discussing how she and her team created the literacy playground.

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The idea for creating a literacy playground at Watkins Regional Park was genius because the theme was already based on the original storybook, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum written in 1899.  Throughout the design, I promote reading the book as much as possible. We used actual pages from the storybook and put them on sign posts at each of the six design areas within the playground—Dorothy’s Farm House, Munchkin Land, the Emerald Forest, the Emerald City of Oz, the Balloon Escape and the Ruby Red Shoes. Another designer on my team, Chris Colvin, had the idea to add language to the book-page signs that states “Read the story to find out what happens next.” We continually used this concept to encourage children to read the story so they could relate to the playground and find the fun in reading.

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We inspired children to understand the original storybook by using real graphics from the book for the characters of Dorothy, Cowardly Lion, Tin Woodsman, Scarecrow and Toto. The images were reproduced onto play panels where holes were cut out to allow children to actually become the characters and create a photo opportunity. This is just one way we help bring the storybook to life for children. Additionally, the entry has a long Yellow Brick Road, which passes under a rainbow archway where children begin their play experience. The colors from the rainbow archway filter down onto the children on sunny days, and we hear them saying things like, “Look I am green and now I am red. I’m a rainbow!”

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One of the other designers, Rene Albacete, decided to add some funny reading opportunities throughout the play environment. Kids and their families find surprise text on Toto’s Doghouse that reads “Dear Dorothy, I took the shoes. Find your own way home.” We added names to the balloon escape play equipment to identify which balloon was from the Kansas State Fair. We even designed “OZ” into the rubber safety surfacing outside of the Emerald City of Oz castle. I also added educational reading opportunities like the Word Search game in which children can find all kinds of words relating to the Oz storybook. Some other reading opportunities include Aunt Em’s mailbox, Toto’s Doghouse, the Chicken Coop and the directional sign at the entrance that points visitors to the Yellow Brick Road or Ruby Red Shoes.

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A lot of parents and children who visit the playground say they are so excited about the space, and talked about going to the library to check out the book to read the full story. Parents say they are going to enjoy teaching their children that reading a book is fun in a day when so much information is prepared electronically.

Make Your Mark with Playground Design

Whether realized or not, the design of our surrounding environment influences how we engage, learn and develop. A playground is a social space, and every child is different. That’s why we design playgrounds that honor each child’s pathway, while offering fun and exciting new challenges.

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It’s possible to create unique playground designs at an affordable price tag. Incorporate Smart Play®: Venti® along with freestanding play components like our Rhapsody™ Outdoor Musical Instruments to create a unique space with a variety of play experiences.

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Playgrounds come in all shapes, sizes and styles. You can bring a fantasy world to life by incorporating customized playground components into your design. Watkins Regional Park in Upper Marlboro, Md., based its design on the story of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Or use custom playground design to celebrate the heritage of your community. The Wabun Picnic Area at Minnehaha Regional Park in Minneapolis, Minn., steps back in time with a thematic nod to its origins as an auto tourist camp.

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Bring children and families of all abilities together for play with an inclusive playground design. By keeping the needs of all users in mind during the design process, you can create a play environment like the Jonesboro Miracle League Park in Jonesboro, Ark., that increases access, safety, comfort and social participation.

Tom Sawyer Island at Amelia Earhart Park

The great outdoors is the number one spot where kids can play naturally—making up their own games while freely exploring the world around them. The playground on Tom Sawyer Island at Amelia Earhart Park in Hialeah, Fla., helps promote outdoor adventure with its recycled wood-grain panels, woodsy color scheme, and nature-inspired climbers that mimic rocks, mushrooms and logs.

Learn more about how you can #MakeYourMark in playground design by viewing our infographic, then contact your local playground consultant to get started on your next playground project.

Case Study: Teaching kids as they play

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Client: Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC), Upper Marlboro, Md.

Designers: Brenda Iraola, landscape architect supervisor; Chris Colvin, landscape architect; and Rene Albacete, landscape architect

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Goal: Create a storybook playground design for Watkins Regional Park based on the original Oz storybook to encourage learning through play

Solution: Kids and families can experience Auntie Em and Uncle Henry’s Kansas farm, Dorothy’s house, Munchkin Land, the poppy field, the Emerald City and Dorothy’s attempt to get home via hot air balloon. Even more, Dorothy’s ruby slippers were adapted to be playground slides! The design also includes a unique experience for the children to become the characters of the storybook. Brenda and her team used play panels containing graphics of the drawn storybook characters—Dorothy and Toto, the Cowardly Lion, Tin Woodsman and the Scarecrow—with cut-outs for children’s faces to allow them to become a part of the story.

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Read more about how the Wizard of Oz-themed playground at Watkins Regional Park has become the main attraction for visitors all over Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.