Taking #shapedbyplay on the road

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: We are all shaped by play. We feel so strongly about this message that we took it on the road to the 2017 NRPA Annual Conference in New Orleans and ASLA Annual Meeting in Los Angeles.

Our booth spaces at both shows perfectly illustrated how we are all shaped by play. From showcasing those three words front and center to the photos of kids on our playground equipment, shade structures and aqua play products, the tree featuring artwork from local school kids and fun swag, we encouraged all visitors to consider how they were shaped by play.

Continue to share how you’re shaped by play and how you’re helping to build the leaders of tomorrow through play using #shapedbyplay. For a little inspiration, check out our video below.

Spinning into New Orleans

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The ASLA Annual Meeting & Expo kicks off tomorrow in New Orleans, and we’re looking forward to connecting with everyone. If you’re attending, join us for the following:

  1. Opening General Session. We’re excited to sponsor a discussion with two of the most influential thinkers and practitioners of landscape architecture’s past 50 years. Join us on Saturday, Oct. 22, at 8 a.m. CST for Shared Wisdom: Legacy, Practice, and Partnership.
  2. EXPO. Take a spin around the EXPO, and be sure to visit us in booth #1221 on Saturday and Sunday for a play break. And check out Aquatix™ by Landscape Structures (formerly Aquatic Recreation Company) in booth #1233 to learn about the newest products for interactive water playgrounds.
  3. ASLA Student Awards Scholarships. Get a glimpse of the future of the profession. We’re pleased to provide scholarships to attend the annual meeting to these student leaders.

Additionally, stop by the LAF (Landscape Architecture Foundation) booth #100 to learn about its 50 & Forward Campaign. We are proud to support this campaign and its effort to expand existing programs and support new initiatives of the LAF.

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.

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.

Case Study: Healing through play

Thomas M. Menino Park, Boston, Massachusetts

Client: Boston Redevelopment Authority, Boston, Mass.

Designers: Cheri Ruane, landscape architect at Spurr, Weston & Sampson’s design studio

Goal: Design an exciting and interesting playground that would be truly inclusive so that kids who are typically developing and those with special needs could play together

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Solution: Cheri and her team collaborated with physical and occupational therapists from nearby Spaulding Rehabilitation Center to learn and understand what kinds of therapy and activities should be supported in the park. The playground combines the Evos® playsystem with the PlayBooster® playstructure, landforms were used to create elevation so that space wasn’t taken up by really long lengths of ramps. And sensory-rich and therapy-specific components were included to meet the needs of all visitors.

Read more about how Thomas M. Menino Park brings fun and therapy to the Boston Waterfront.

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The Canyon Collection™, landscape architects ROCKED Chicago

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At the American Society of Landscape Architects Annual Meeting & Expo last weekend in Chicago, we ROCKED the exhibit hall! Our booth space featured The Canyon Collection™ and a customized Netplex™ in our new colors and the HealthBeat® Chest/Back Press and Elliptical stations.

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Visitors to our booth were met with our nature-inspired climbers, which enticed many to test out their rock-climbing skills. All that play combined with Pop Rocks took attendees back to days from their youth. In addition to our booth, we were proud to sponsor the Opening General Session featuring creators of the PBS series, 10 Parks That Changed America. We also sponsored the Edible Landscape Celebration, which included healthy, locally sourced and heirloom foods, dancing and a Blues Brothers tribute!

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Even more, we were excited to celebrate our President Pat Faust, who was presented with an Honorary Membership in ASLA. This honor is given to non-landscape architects for their commitment to the landscape architecture profession.

We had a great time in Chicago visiting with park and recreation professionals, hearing from industry experts and taking in all that the city has to offer. Our employees and playground consultants are already looking forward to the 2016 ASLA Annual Meeting in New Orleans!

ROCKing into Chicago!

ASLA 2015 | Chicago, Ill. | Nov. 6-9

The ASLA Annual Meeting & Expo kicks off tomorrow in Chicago, and we’re looking forward to connecting with everyone. If you’re attending, join us for the following events:

  1. Opening General Session. We’re excited to sponsor speakers from the PBS series, “10 Parks That Changed America.” Join us at Saturday, Nov. 7, at 8 a.m. CST for a lively discussion.
  2. Exhibit Hall. Do you wanna ROCK? Then visit us in booth #1421 on Saturday and Sunday as we rock the playground!
  3. An Edible Landscape Celebration. Join us Saturday, Nov. 7, at 8 p.m. at the Chicago Illuminating Company for healthy, locally sourced and heirloom foods. Plus, there’s talk of a Blues Brothers tribute!
  4. Education Session. Join John McConkey and Dr. Lucy Jane Miller on Sunday, Nov. 8, at 11 a.m. in A11 to learn about Evidence-based Design: Sensory Play Gardens and Children with Developmental Disorders.