Meet the 2020 recipient of the Steven G. King Play Environments Scholarship

Earlier this year, the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) awarded more than $100,000 to 17 outstanding students for its 2020 scholarship season. The scholarships and fellowships support the next generation of designers by rewarding superior student performance, encouraging diversity, supporting original research and assisting students with unmet financial need.

One of those awards is the Steven G. King Play Environments Scholarship, which was created by Cofounder and Chairman of Landscape Structures, Steve King, FASLA, and the inventor of the continuous play concept.

The purpose of the scholarship is to recognize a student who has high potential in the design of play environments. This student must show an interest in the value of integrating playgrounds into parks, schools and other play environments and understand the significant social and educational value of play. Key qualities in the student receiving the Scholarship are creativity, openness to innovation, and a demonstrated interest in park and playground planning.

This year’s recipient of the Steven G. King Play Environments Scholarship is Allyson Fairweather. This past May, Allyson received a Master’s of Landscape Architecture from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and is working part-time at Wright Ostermier Landscape Architects. We were happy to sit down with Allyson earlier this summer to hear more about her interest in landscape architecture, and the project she submitted as part of her scholarship application.

Last spring, Allyson took a research class and was interested in studying if there was a relationship between an adult affinity for nature and how much time that adult spent playing in nature as a child.

“I was excited to discover that there is evidence to suggest that children that play outdoors in nature exhibit more environmentally responsible behaviors, greater nature inquiry, great awareness of ecological process and greater environmental stewardship,” Allyson explained.

In her research, the term “nature playscape” popped up a lot. She learned that a nature playscape is an outdoor play space that is specifically designed to connect children to the natural environment and included elements such as water, plants, soil and incorporated wild life.

“As a child, I played outside all the time,” Allyson shared. “I was always on my hands and knees in the dirt playing with bugs, collecting flowers and leaves, and running around in my parents’ garden. I have more memories of that than I do hanging out on a swing set. And now as an adult, I love the outdoors. So that’s what sparked my interest in this subject.”

Through her connection to adjunct professor and Principal at Wright Ostermier Landscape Architects, Emily Wright, Allyson was made aware of a playground redesign project at The Bement School, a small, co-ed day and boarding school for kindergarten through grade 9 in historic Deerfield, Mass. The school, nestled below the Pocumtuck Range and flanked by the Deerfield River, has a beautiful, rural environment. Their existing playground was outdated and disconnected—scattered throughout campus. And upon further conversations, Allyson learned that the playground equipment wasn’t challenging enough for the range of students using it.

Allyson met with the playground committee—two school administrators and a teacher—a few different times. Initially, she visited the site to understand the space. Then she held two workshops—one for the playground committee and a second one for a small group of students in grades 3, 4, 5 and 7.

“The ultimate goal of these workshops was to understand how the play space was used, what the school community liked or didn’t like, and their vision of how it could be improved,” explained Allyson. “We prompted the adults with questions for discussion, but for the students we planned a more interactive exercise using a printed map of campus and inspirational photos. The students used stickers to vote for favorite pictures of nature play spaces.”

Allyson explained that the kids’ favorite photo was a playstructure embedded into a hillside because it appeared challenging and the students could imagine many creative ways to play there.

“A large part of this project was engaging with The Bement School community,” Allyson said. “They loved being a part of this project and kept asking when we were going to come back.”

After compiling all of the feedback into a report, Allyson started laying out the design of the nature playscape.

“One of the first things I did with this design was start with a continuous accessible path that circulated through the entire play space to create a boundary that unifies the play area. I tried to accommodate a range of ages and abilities in the play equipment. We imagined the playground would be created out of locally sourced black locusts because it’s really strong, sturdy wood that doesn’t splinter.”

Of course, they were tasked with blending the nature-inspired elements with more traditional playground features like foursquare and basketball courts, and swings. They included those elements but oriented them at angles that give different views of the soccer fields, the play area and the surrounding landscape.

“The committee wanted to include a tire swing as it helped demonstrate one of The Bement School’s core values, collaboration,” Allyson explained. “Older kids help younger kids up onto the tire swing so it presents an opportunity for different age groups to interact and build friendships. We really appreciated their observation and positioned the tire swing in the space between two different play zones so both age groups can meet in the middle.”

In addition, it was important to include quiet areas for older kids. Picnic tables and boulders were positioned throughout the play space to offer hangout spaces. Integrated plantings, boulders and rain gardens were woven throughout the play space to extend learning to the playground.

“We presented the nature playscape to The Bement School in January 2020, and they loved it,” said Allyson. “They hope to invest in the project in the future.”

We hope to see this project come to fruition, and to see what types of playscapes Allyson completes in her future career. Congratulations, Allyson, on your scholarship!

Read more about all of the 2020 LAF Scholarship winners.

Play during social distancing

“Play never told me you can’t.”

Those are the words that open the second chapter of our Shaped by Play video. And now, more than ever, they ring loud and clear. While we’re all practicing social distancing and many playgrounds across the world have been closed down during the pandemic, children, families, friends and teachers are showing us that play is an invitation to be creative.

New and innovative ways to play are being created by our partners, friends and even celebrities. Check out these fun ideas to encourage play that we’ve seen throughout the world:

  1. Teach your children about landscape architecture through drawing and doodling; the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has created a free activity book for download.
  2. Think field trips are out of the question? Think again. Browse the virtual events from Discovery Education for a chance to visit amazing places for remarkable experiences. And for a learning break, take a virtual field trip to playgrounds around the world!
  3. We’re all inside with our children and families. Luckily, Too Small to Fail has curated resources to help you talk, read, sing and play your way through the day. Pick and choose the ideas that work best for your child’s age and interests, and follow his or her lead.
  4. Inclusion Matters by Shane’s Inspiration has been sharing fun ideas to stay playful throughout April; check out their #30daysofplay on Twitter and Facebook.
  5. Check out Storyline Online, made available by the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, and hear your favorite actors read your favorite children’s stories.
  6. Grab your paper, pencils and crayons and join Mo Willems at the Kennedy Center to explore new ways of writing and making together. All 15 episodes and downloadable activities are now available on-demand.
  7. Get creative with your environment! Design your own ninja warrior course in your backyard or see seven steps to create one inside your home.
  8. Read! In addition to reading your favorite books, check out our On the Playground digital publication that is sure to help strengthen your mind and body.
  9. Scavenger hunts are a great activity to challenge your mind while being active. And best of all, there are so many options available from Primary Playground! Browse scavenger hunts that you can do in your backyard, while you’re reading books or even one inside!
  10. Play a game of bingo. There are so many timely game boards available—work from home bingo, social distancing bingo or reading bingo. Find one that will be the most fun for your family and get playing!

During this time of quarantine, remember that imagination will never fail us, words will never hurt us and play will always shape us. Keep playing, and share your quarantine play tips with us using #shapedbyplay. Bonus points for photos or video!

Design a legendary playground

2020 PLAY Book

For us, design refers to what a playstructure looks like as much as it does to the play value built into it. We simply cannot design one without the other. Play value is what creates return visitors. That’s why we design play environments to be newly fresh and exciting upon every visit. Go here to view and request a copy of the 2020 PLAY Book.

Deliver a hive of activity that sparks the imagination, facilitates discovery and lends itself to new adventure. See a few of the signature playground designs from our 2020 PLAY Book in action below.

Turn your destination playground into a legend. By design. Contact us to get started on your next playground design.

Kiwanis Legacy of Play Winners 2019

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We’re excited to announce that the Kiwanis Club of Barron, Wisconsin is the winner in the 6th Annual Legacy of Play contest. The club, which will receive $25,000 in playground equipment, plans to build an accessible and inclusive playground in Anderson Park to provide a safe and fun opportunity for all kids of the community to play together and be themselves.

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Located in Northwestern Wisconsin, Barron is a rural city with a special needs community of children that make up 20% of the child population and over 50% of children qualifying for free or reduced lunch. It is important to the city of Barron to create a park for the community that children can enjoy regardless of their physical and mental ability or socio-economic status. The City of Barron and the Barron Kiwanis Club are excited to collaborate on this special project, and we’re excited to see this inclusive playground vision come to life over the next year, as well!

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Stay tuned for updates along the way through our website, and Barron Kiwanis Club.

Planning an Inclusive Playground

Planning a playground requires consideration for children of all abilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires all playgrounds to be brought into compliance. Since the ADA requirements have come out, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) have provided written guidelines for accessibility compliance. ASTM F1487-05 Standard is a document that provides specific playground/play equipment accessibility guidance.

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The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board has also authored a guideline that is the standard of practice for determining compliance with the ADA.

Legally, the ADA requires that “each service, program, or activity conducted by a public entity when viewed in its entirety, be readily accessible to, and usable by, individuals with disabilities.” This law covers “both indoor and outdoor areas where human constructed improvements, structures, equipment or property have been added to the natural environment.”

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Accessibility law only requires that comparable experiences must be provided for all. If there are several slides and two or more swings, it is considered accessible if children with disabilities can use one of the slides and one of the swings. To learn more about the difference between accessibility and inclusivity, click here.

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Aside from the regulations put forth that determine how to design an accessible playground for children of varying mobilities, there are many actions a planner should take to ensure their structure is truly inclusive. Inclusivity on a playground can be witnessed when children of all abilities can play together and participate equally- not separately and on their own. A well-designed playground incorporates the aspects of inclusive play to blend seamlessly.

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To learn more about inclusive play structures, visit playlsi.com

To find an inclusive playground near you, click here.

Planning a Community Splash Pad: Goals and Development

Welcome back to the second installment of our educational series on how to create a community splash pad! The last post focused on items to be accomplished in the pre-planning stage. This week we will be focusing on the goals of the splash pad and its development.

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Goals

By creating a list of goals, planners and decision makers can refer to the objectives they set in the beginning to re-evaluate their choices to ensure they meet the goals they originally set out with. The goal of a Master Plan is to provide community residents exceptional open space, park land, facilities and programs to splash pad users.

The following goals and objectives are intended to provide an operational framework for future decisions related to provision of parks and recreation.

  • Create a Sense of Community and Belonging
  • Offer programming that is targeted to families and those residents without support services.
  • Celebrate the community through participation in festivals, community functions and events.
  • Support and encourage new developments to include areas for active and passive recreation.
  • Provide parks and recreation facilities that are of the highest quality, that preserve open space and history, are well maintained and that are accessible to all residents of the community.
  • To create a community of healthy residents by providing opportunities that promote and encourage active lifestyles.
  • Provide recreation programming and facility opportunities that meet the needs and interests of the entire community.
  • To use existing community resources efficiently and to demonstrate fiscal responsibility.
  • To build a city-wide system of parks connected by trails and greenways to provide both active and passive recreation opportunities.
  • To enhance the landscape character and aesthetics of parks to heighten the experience of the spray park user.
  • To increase the accessory services and facilities available to the park system use in the way of adequate restrooms, water fountains, concessions, shades areas, playgrounds, and other accessory services or facilities.

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Development

  • Clearly define the goals of the project (i.e. public health, revenue generation, community asset, etc.) and frame public discussions, budget numbers and designs in terms of stated goals.
  • Design the splash pad so that capacity aligns with projected use and revenue goals. Don’t cap users at a much lower number than the official capacity of their splash pad for safety.
  • Ensure access issues such as parking are considered early in the design process.
  • Plan for expansion and new features (i.e. install more ground sprays than will initially be used and buy water features that can be replaced or exchanged).
  • Explore opportunities to develop splash pads near other public amenities such as parks, pools, picnic areas and community centers.
  • Ensure adequate seating in shaded areas for adults supervising splash pad users.
  • Install mechanical and electrical equipment on concrete surfaces and insulated from dust and dirt.

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Important considerations during the planning process:

1.Physical Location

  • Within Community
  • Within Park or Recreation District
  • Proximity to similar neighboring facilities

2. Location and Availability of Parking

  • Is there sufficient parking?
  • Is there van or bus parking?
  • Is the parking shared with other activities?

3. Location and Availability of Restrooms and Concessions

  • Are restrooms included?
  • Are changing areas included?

4. Existing Utility Services (Water, Sanitary, Storm and Electrical)

  • Are existing utilities on site or nearby?

5. Nearby Amenities and Facilities (Playground, Athletic Fields, Mini Golf, Courts, etc.)

  • Are there nearby facilities that will complement the sprayground? Or negatively impact the sprayground?

6. Neighborhood Connectivity, Bicycle Routes

  • Connectivity to nearby regional bicycle or multi-use trail systems.

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To learn more about Aquatix splash pad and water play products, visit their website.

The Value of Inclusive Sensory Play

A well-rounded playground is not complete without the addition of sensory play elements. Sensory play adds valuable play experiences to a playground through beneficial opportunities for learning and socializing. Proper sensory play can help children develop problem solving skills, express emotion, promote empathy, and instills lasting confidence. Not all sensory play is created equally- playground planners should ensure that their sensory play equipment is inclusive to children of all abilities, both physical and mental.

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Many children living with sensory processing disorders or autism may find socializing, communication, and imaginative play challenging without the proper support. Through sensory play, these children can feel included to explore and discover new experiences without fear or exclusion.

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Landscape Structures Inc. offers a variety of sensory play equipment for every project:

Sensory Play Center

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Pulse

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Rhapsody® Outdoor Musical Instruments

Vibra™ Chimes

Fossil Digs

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And much more!

Visit playlsi.com to learn more about planning your playground project.

Introducing: The Curva® and Chill™ Spinners

Introducing: The Curva® and Chill™ Spinners! These new play pieces from Landscape Structures Inc. are bound to add a twist of vestibular fun to any play project.

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The Curva® Spinner allows for one or multiple riders on each spinner. The spinning motion allows children to experiment with centrifugal force and learn about cause and effect in the way they use their bodies to engage in movement. The unique design adds a custom, designer look to any space and is available in any of the ProShield® colors or stainless steel.

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The Chill™ Spinner has all the spinning fun of the Curva® Spinner, with a more relaxed design feature. The comfortable seat accommodates players who require or desire a little more support and comfort when taking part in the spinning fun. Textured rubber belting adds to the secure and relaxed feel. Users can control the movement themselves or have another player spin for them.  The Chill™ Spinner is also available in any of the ProShield® colors or stainless steel.

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Both products are ideal for players age 5 to 12 years old and promote freestanding play and developmental benefits such as balance, problem solving, proprioception and vestibular experiences.

The Power of Play

We believe in the power of play and what it means to us, regardless of age or ability.

“Play never said be careful, you’re not strong enough, you’re not big enough you’re not brave enough.”

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Play isn’t a simple idea that can be packaged neatly, succinctly.

“Play doesn’t care what a body can or cannot do.”

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Play doesn’t just teach us one thing- it teaches us everything. It shapes who we are and who we become. Play itself is a powerful part of everyone, which is why a playground should be for everyone.

“…play lives inside us.”

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Play is limitless, and we too are also limitless.

Play invites us to grab a hold of the rope and take a leap of faith into the world because play is everything.

To learn more about the infinite power of play, visit us at playlsi.com and watch our video here.

National Playground Safety Week 2019

It’s National Playground Safety Week, and there’s no better time to read up on some of the most important aspects of playground safety: audits and maintenance! Understanding the difference and the components of the two can help you create a safe, up to date play space for all ages and abilities!

Safety Audit

Check us out on playlsi.com to read more about staying safe on the playground!