Designers: SWA and Jonah Scholen, Landscape Structures custom playground designer
Goal: Convert an unused concrete space into a community-designed green space including playgrounds for children and recreation activities for all ages
Solution: The City of Hawthorne collaborated with SWA, their local playground consultant, RecWest Outdoor Products, and Jonah to create an aviation-themed playground design. The PlayBooster® and Netplex® playstructures encourage kids ages 5 to 12 to climb higher and higher until they reach the clouds, while 2- to 5-year-olds explore the twin-prop plane-themed playstructure.
Get more details about how the playground at Bicentennial Park encourages kids of all ages to go sky-high.
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
How do you #MakeYourMark on the playground? As an internationally diverse school, Lausanne Collegiate School aimed to demonstrate its global brand on the playground. See below for a few of the featured landmarks that represent the world, then visit playlsi.com to learn more about their world-themed playground design.
We helped Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis, Tenn., create a playground design to reflect their culture as an internationally diverse school. Hear from our custom playground designer, Jonah Scholen, about how he collaborated with the school to create the playground of their dreams. The end result? Students at Lausanne can run all over the world without ever touching the ground.
Goal: Demonstrate the school’s global brand and represent the internationally diverse population—30 percent of students and/or parents represent 54 different countries
Solution: Lausanne collaborated with their local playground consultant, Recreational Concepts, and Jonah to create a world-themed design. The playground includes 14 different playstructures that represent a tour of the world on safety surfacing designed to mimic a world map. The playground includes the ZipKrooz™, which takes students from the Horn of Africa to Australia. Plus, climbable replicas of Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower and the Taj Mahal provide opportunities for kids to interact, engage in imaginative play and discover the world beyond them while staying active.
Read more about how the playground at Lausanne Collegiate School has become a space to play and learn.