Shape kids’ lives with play

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Play shapes us. We believe this wholeheartedly at Landscape Structures, and that why we’ve launched the Shaped by Play Scholarship. The scholarships, available in amounts between $250 and $3,000, are for kids to use for camps, sports clinics, piano lessons, art classes and more… activities that will help build the leaders of tomorrow through play.

Eligible applicants* will be elementary, middle or high school students, and they must be nominated by a Kiwanis member, parks and recreation professional, or a school principal. Nominate kids in your community at playlsi.com/shapedbyplay.

We are now accepting applications for the Shaped by Play Scholarship, and the program will follow the below timeline:

  • June 1 – July 31: Application period
  • Aug. 7 – 18: Application review by external judges
  • Aug. 31: Winners announcement

Contact your local playground consultant with any questions about the Scholarship. In the meantime, find inspiration for your nomination by watching our video that brings the WHY of what we do to life.

*The Shaped by Play Scholarship is open to residents of the U.S. or Canada. Employees of Landscape Structures, Aquatix by Landscape Structures and rep organizations, and members of their immediate families are not eligible to participate and win.

Guest Blog: Project-based learning leads to new playground design

In 2015, we collaborated with Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis, Tenn., to design a world-themed playground. Today, we’re happy to have Kara Barbour, head of lower school, as our guest blogger discussing how the school brought students into the playground planning process through their project-based curriculum.

Lausanne-blog

At Lausanne Collegiate School, the Lower School (PK-4) engages in a daily block of project work. Each Lower School classroom is in charge of three projects throughout the year, dedicating six to eight weeks to each project. Our goal with this project-based learning was to get students asking questions and researching a particular topic.

The third grade classrooms are focused on inventions projects, during which they start to investigate how things are made, hear from entrepreneurs, etc. The students work in groups of three to four to come up with an invention, and then they go to the idea labs to start sketching things out and building prototypes to determine if their idea will work.

When we decided that we were going to install a new playground, we really wanted to get the students involved and decided the third graders and their inventions unit would be a perfect fit. Each of the small groups put together a proposal, and so many of their ideas were actually things that Landscape Structures had already started working on.

We first revealed the playground drawings to the third graders. They squealed with delight to see their ideas turned into reality. We then gave them the opportunity to share the drawings with the rest of the school during a student assembly, and even had a few students share the plans with the parent group. The third graders feel that the playground came to be because of the work that they did.

The playground opened in August 2015, just before school began, and the third graders took part in the official ribbon cutting. All of the students at Lausanne love the new playground—even fifth graders are attracted by it. It’s been quite the magnet for the entire community.

Video Case Study: Community playground builds

There’s something particularly satisfying about watching kids run, jump and climb on a playground built by a community. As you begin the playground planning process, consider making your project a community build. Not only can it help save costs, but it also brings neighbors and communities closer together. Watch the video below to see how Annandale Elementary School in Annandale, Minn., and their local Lions Club worked together to build new school playgrounds.

Learn more about community playground builds at playlsi.com, and contact your local playground consultant to request our Guide to Community Build Playgrounds.

Supporting the children and nature movement

We know that improved concentration and school achievement, reduced stress levels and a foundation of environmental stewardship are just a few of the benefits that kids receive from playing outdoors. That’s why we’re committed to designing nature-inspired commercial playground equipment that gets kids outside for play and reconnecting with the natural world around them.

Children & Nature Network 2015 Conference

Our commitment to outdoor play is also why we’re proud to support the Children & Nature Network’s 2015 Conference April 7-9, in Austin, Texas. We’re looking forward to connecting with leaders from around the world to hear what others are doing to create nature-rich communities that are so critical to the health and wellbeing of children and families.

Learn more about how we help communities create natural play environments, and check out the Children & Nature Network for the latest in research and policies.

Fun, new playground equipment products for your 2015 designs

See how we’re designing exhilaration, challenge, imagination and community into our new playground products for 2015.

Eight new nature-inspired playground colors will stimulate kids’ senses and perfectly coordinate with the outdoors!

New Colors for 2015!First there was Smart Play: Motion 2-5, and now there’s Smart Play: Cube 2-5! This play structure delivers 14 different activities perfect for 2- to 3-year-olds in a compact footprint.

Smart Play: Cube 2-5We’re rocking community and school playgrounds again with our new Canyon Collection™, which provides a realistic rock climbing experience.

The Canyon Collection™Our HealthBeat® outdoor fitness system has a fresh new design and three new stations—the Elliptical, Parallel Bars and the Hand Cycler.

Fresh, newly designed HealthBeat® outdoor fitness systemSpin to good health! Our TopsyTurny™ Spinner encourages social interaction and collaboration.

TopsyTurny™ Spinner

Learn more about these innovative new commercial playground equipment products on the newly redesigned playlsi.com!

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.