Bringing literacy to the playground

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We’re excited to expand the Smart Play® line of playstructures with designs especially for toddlers and preschoolers. Introduced in 2017, Loft delivers interactive elements to engage developing minds and bodies. And now, the Loft family has grown to include the Fire Station and Market Cafe to further encourage social and imaginative play for 2- to 5-year-olds.

With the Fire Station, kids can take control at the wheel, pet Sparky the friendly fire dog or slide down to their next adventure. There’s plenty more to keep them busy including an object find game, a bell and a gear shift, and a fun mirror that shows them how they’d look in uniform.

 

The Market Cafe lets little ones take turns placing meal orders, dining with friends and talking about healthy food choices. Among lots of activities, kids can make pictures in the image panel, bing-bong the apple bell and chat about food colors and tastes.

Double the fun by connecting any two of these Smart Play playstructures–Loft, Fire Station or Market Cafe–with an elevated crawl tunnel to enhance the imaginative fun and physical activity levels. Or connect all three to create the Centre for kids to explore and stay active.

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Best of all, with guidance from the National Head Start Association and Too Small to Fail, developmentally appropriate activities including literacy prompts were incorporated throughout the designs to engage children and adults in language-rich conversations.

See Centre in action below, and go to playlsi.com for more details about the Smart Play line.

Building the leaders of tomorrow

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Play shapes us. It helps build leaders, encourage collaboration, teach persistence, develop problem-solving skills and much more. That’s why we launched the Shaped by Play Scholarship in June. Our goal was to fund activities that help build the leaders of tomorrow.

We accepted nominations for the scholarship throughout the summer, and are excited to announce the winners! We were able to award 16 individuals a scholarship to participate in activities ranging from figure skating lessons to invention camp.

See the list of scholarship recipients below, and see how they’re planning to use the funds:

  • Audrey D. from Victoria, B.C., will participate in summer figure skating camps
  • Chad D. from Lexington, S.C., will get inspired at Camp Invention
  • Charlize H. from Forest Park, Ga., will take an educational trip to Disney World focused on physics
  • Connor N. from Mifflinburg, Penn., will attend soccer camp, art lessons or an engineering/creative activity
  • Dmitri J. from Belvidere, Ill., will continue cello lessons at the Music Academy of Rockford
  • Emily S. from Victoria, B.C., will participate in a sports camp next summer
  • Ka’Mauri D. from Washington, D.C., will take charge of her own learning experience at Steve & Kate’s Camp next summer
  • Kelsey M. from Tallahassee, Fla., will improve her skills through club volleyball camps at the Prostyle Volleyball Academy
  • Kendal F. from Washington, D.C., will participate in gymnastics classes
  • Lauren N. from Palatka, Fla., will play in the upcoming soccer season and buy new equipment
  • Lili L. from Houston, Texas, will compete in the Miracle League All-Star Game
  • Miranda E. from Bennett, Colo., will take swimming lessons and purchase a membership to the pool
  • Morgan M. from Pittsburgh, Penn., will put the scholarship dollars towards college tuition, books and housing
  • Scott B. from Cypress, Texas, will compete in the Miracle League All-Star Game
  • Terron G. from Katy, Texas, will play in the Miracle League All-Star Game
  • Xavier D. From Lexington, S.C., will take on challenges at Camp Invention

Stay tuned throughout the next year, as we check in with our Shaped by Play Scholarship recipients to learn about their experiences.

Connecting play and learning at Greater & Greener 2017

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More than 1,000 park leaders, city planners, design professionals, and urban park advocates came to Minneapolis and Saint Paul from around the world for Greater & Greener 2017: Parks Connecting Cities, Cultures, & Generations. The five-day indoor and outdoor conference focused on the role of urban parks in creating healthy, resilient and economically competitive cities.

In addition to being a Gold Sponsor of the Conference, we hosted two events throughout the week. On Sunday, July 30, we welcomed 40 volunteers from around the world to construct a playground at Central Village Park in St. Paul. The volunteer’s finished building commercial playground equipment for kids ages 5 to 12, a Clubhouse for kids ages 2 to 5 and playground panels, which featured Too Small to Fail‘s Talking is Teaching creative content with parent-child conversation prompts to foster healthy language-rich interactions.

 

On Tuesday, Aug. 1, we hosted a mobile workshop that showcased the most imaginative playgrounds in Minneapolis. Attendees heard from the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board and community members about how the city encourages healthy outdoor activity, brings families together and builds community. Even more, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges joined the group at Powderhorn Park to share her commitment to cradle-to-K development and how the city is using the Talking is Teaching campaign to support early literacy in the city.

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Principals Build Playground at Pennsylvania Elementary School

Last Saturday, nearly 150 principals representing the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) came together to build a playground at Stonehurst Hills Elementary School in Upper Darby, Penn. The community service day was part of the 2017 National Principals Conference held in Philadelphia.

The playground was designed for students ages 5 to 12, and features the new GeoPlex™ climbing panels as well as various ground-level climbers, overhead ladders, and bridges and balancing activities. In addition to building the school playground, principals landscaped, painted and participated in other beautification projects at the school.

As you can see from the tweets, principals had a blast during the build. This is the ninth year that we’ve partnered with NAESP to build a playground at a deserving elementary school. Learn more about the NAESP Annual Conference and save the date: July 9-11, 2018 in Orlando, Fla.

Guest Blog: City Parks Create Important Foundation for Youth

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We are proud to be members of the City Parks Alliance, which supports the creation, revitalization and sustainability of urban parks and green spaces. Today, we’re happy to have Catherine Nagel, executive director at the City Parks Alliance, as our guest blogger discussing Greater & Greener 2017, which is being hosted in the Twin Cities July 29 through Aug. 2.

As more people are moving back to urban areas, the importance of close-to-home parks is increasing–perhaps most for children. For those who don’t have a backyard to play in, the local park serves myriad functions: a portal to experiencing the natural world, a community hub where families and neighbors get to know each other, and a place for outdoor learning to help build skills of all kinds through organized activities. But beyond their role in recreation and social well-being, city parks also help grow local economies, create new transportation options, combat crime, and reduce environmental impacts such as storm water runoff. Urban planners, elected officials and community advocates recognize these benefits and are taking a fresh look at parks as an important part of civic infrastructure.

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Engaging youth in the outdoors can unleash their curiosity about nature, build confidence, and strengthen leadership skills, ultimately supporting careers in the sciences, recreation, conservation and elsewhere. Urban parks and park and recreation agencies are rich with opportunity to empower youth and help them succeed. At Greater & Greener 2017, our International Urban Parks Conference, we have created an entire track dedicated to the Parks and Youth Development. Speakers will focus on parks and programs that are providing close-to-home camping experiences, supporting new kinds of outdoor recreation, building literacy, strengthening advocacy around environmental and social change, and offering “green” job training and employment in the parks and recreation profession and related fields.

To help Greater & Greener, hosted by the Twin Cities of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, have a lasting impact beyond the sessions and knowledge sharing, Landscape Structures is sponsoring a Playground Build Volunteer Day to help kick off the conference. The brand new playstructure will be built in Central Village Park in Saint Paul, Minn., giving the community a place to recreate, socialize, and for the youth in the community to be #shapedbyplay!

CPA_resizedLandscape Structures is also sponsoring The Mayors Forum at Greater & Greener, which will explore with city leaders what it means to create equitable cities and what role public spaces play in building inclusive, vibrant, and sustainable communities. Speakers include: Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, and Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland. Next City’s President, CEO and Publisher Tom Dallessio will moderate. Check out the full agenda with tours, field trips and sessions on youth engagement and register now.

Urban parks are dynamic institutions that play a vital role in the social, economic and physical well-being of America’s cities and their residents. The full benefits of parks in urban communities are only now being fully understood and measured. For most Americans, their closest park is a city park, and city parks provide an essential foundation that supports the next generation to grow and thrive–from childhood to adulthood.

Netplex is what’s next in play

Earlier this year, we introduced Netplex™, a new net-based playstructure that challenges kids with an experience completely different from those offered by typical play structures. Climbing cables have been a popular playground material, and we’ve used them in many of our playstructures for more than 10 years. Now, using our patent-pending clamping system, Netplex takes a seemingly unbroken length of cable from the inner core of the playstructure to the outer posts and all the way around.

Netplex is great for community parks.

Netplex offers kids the challenge needed for healthy development into self-assured adults. The net-based playstructure challenges kids’ balance, motor planning and strategic thinking skills and gives the opportunity for graduated challenge—kids will stay low to the ground on more secure cables at first, and when they’ve mastered that they challenge themselves by going higher and engage new muscles.

Netplex is a great playstructure design for elementary school playgrounds.

Learn more about Netplex here, and see it in action in the video below.

Teaching students the importance of composting

The second annual Green Apple Day of Service, a day sponsored by the USGBC’s Center for Green Schools, took place on Friday, Sept. 27. We celebrated a day early by partnering with the MN Green Schools Coalition to help Delano Elementary School (DES) in Delano, Minn., improve their existing composting program. Throughout the week, DES’s media teacher read Compost Stew to each class and they completed a fun, classroom activity. Then on Friday, Sept. 27, we helped students compost their lunch waste, and handed out apples and goodie bags to each student and staff member. By participating in this program, the MN Green Schools Coalition awarded DES dollars to purchase new library books with an environmental theme. Check out the video of the event below, and go here to learn more about our community outreach.