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.

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: Inspiring creative play among kids

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In 2016, we introduced Smart Play®: Venti™, a smartly designed playstructure that packs 20 exciting activities into its compact size. Today, we’re happy to have Tory Roff, concept designer at Landscape Structures, as our guest blogger discussing how he and the product development team created the newest addition to our Smart Play line of playstructures.

The idea for the Smart Play line of playstructures was more an ethos about playgrounds as a whole… about creating a cohesive play environment. The criteria for this playground solution was a small footprint and budget, but a desire to serve a large population. So, we started with a blank slate without any rules, and asked ourselves how to design an environment that invites a dynamic play experience.

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The design started with the Cargo Net and strategically set the height of it so there is room for play underneath, allowing it to work as a trampoline above and it also acts as a hub for the rest of the play space. We built out from there in respect to circuits and routes so there are different ways to engage the whole of the system. Graduated challenge is built into Smart Play: Venti so that kids with a higher skill level can find challenges and still have a way to invent from it.

We spent a lot of time in the model space—virtual and scale models—working out the dimensions of the structure to really understand how every piece could be doing more. In modular playgrounds, a fire pole is always a fire pole. But good design considers what programming is happening around the fire pole so that kids can create another route and link two events as a cohesive experience rather than a series of segmented happenings. And that’s what’s happening with Smart Play: Venti. The Cabin Climber is an interior club house and an exterior ladder. The pods on the Cargo Net are a way-finding option through the structure, but also a place to stop and hang out. The Belt Hammock is a space for lounging, but also an escape route—it’s not big, it’s not obvious, but it is there.

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I was able to talk with students at Birchview Elementary School while they played, and they talked about their friend, Michael, who uses a mobility device. They were excited that he can actually use this equipment, and how it’s his favorite on the playground. Because the design is less scripted, there’s less expectation of how a user actually engages it. Smart Play: Venti allows for more natural inclusion through the addition of many access points and a centralized hangout location, which was one of our primary goals during the design process.

There is enough variety of activities in the playstructure so that kids feel like they can fill in the blank however they want. As designers, we had ideas and hopes of how everything would play out. But you have to engage it from a place of humility and know that there isn’t such a thing as intended use. Kids are infinitely more creative than we are, so it’s important that we give them a platform to express that.

Case Study: Smart playground design

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Client: Birchview Elementary School, Plymouth, Minn.

Designers: Tory Roff and Tom Keller, concept designers at Landscape Structures

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Goal: Create a modern design aesthetic on the playground to match the recently updated school building

Solution: Birchview Elementary School’s Principal Sam Fredrickson chose to install the Smart Play®: Venti® playstructure because of its modern aesthetic and the fact that it would accommodate an entire classroom. Smart Play: Venti packs 20 activities—from nets and slides to belts and climbers—into its design, and its compact size requires less space and surfacing material than typical playgrounds. Even more, the playground is designed using a smart use of materials, and provides challenges that promote physical development and strategic thinking among students.

Read more about how Birchview Elementary School brought play and design into the 21st Century with the installation of their new school playground equipment.

Guest Blog: Exploration through music

In 2015, we collaborated with St. David’s Center in Minnetonka, Minn., to design an inclusive playground complete with an area dedicated to the new Rhapsody™ Outdoor Musical Instruments. Today, we’re happy to have Jackie Hanson, assistant teacher and children’s group piano instructor, as our guest blogger discussing how the music play equipment is helping students learn.

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In the distance I hear a “Bang! Bang!” and a “Ding, Dong, Brrring” sounding out in mismatched pitches and uneven rhythms. I turn my head to see grins lighting up small faces and bodies in motion as children swing their arms back and forth, hitting the drums as hard as they can. One child tilts his head at the base of the hollow metal tubes of the Grandioso™ Chimes as another bounces the mallets off the bars, creating sounds of different pitch and timbre. What some might see as an annoyance or an incorrect attempt at playing music, I see as the purest form of artistic enjoyment and cognitive exploration.

St. David’s Center for Child & Family Development has been fortunate enough to install a brand new all-inclusive playground, which includes a new area filled with the Rhapsody Outdoor Musical Instruments ready and waiting for creative discovery. Music is an art form that humans were creating before the dawn of the written language. Therefore, it can be reasoned that it is one of the most natural ways in which a developing child can learn. The musical instruments at St. David’s Center including the Chimes, Vivo™ and Animato™ Metallophones, and three drums create the opportunity for children to foster fine and gross motor abilities, observe and explore scientific relationships, nurture creative imagination, and grow social interaction skills in a joyous, engaging and natural way.

When a child is playing a drum, fine and gross motor abilities are being developed. In the repeated motion of lifting each arm to hit the drum, gross motor strength is being built. Control is being developed in all the muscles of the arm as the child has to aim his/her hand toward the center of the drum, rather than letting it fall randomly on any area of the drum. Finally, the core is in constant use because it is being used to stabilize the body while the arms move quickly and the lower body stays still.

Scientific exploration is another wonderful educational opportunity these musical instruments can create. Once, a boy slammed the drum with all his force while another rested his cheek on the drum head feeling the vibrations. Another time, a little girl brought me over to tell me something to the effect of, “Look… this big one makes this really scary sound…” when pointing to the pipes of the wind chimes. Most recently, two friends were hitting the Grandioso Chimes as hard as they could and counting how long the sounds lasted. These are just a few examples of the observed scientific exploration, which are the building blocks of more complex discoveries in the future.

Music also fosters creative imagination and growth. While it’s easy to get stuck in the mindset of using an instrument for its “defined” use we forget that music is meant to be creative and a gateway for new ideas. While on the playground, I have seen children hitting the drums with sticks instead of their hands, riding the drums like horses, knocking on the Chimes pretending it’s a doorbell and using their fingers to try to play. Not all of these uses create music. But the children are using the Rhapsody Outdoor Musical Instruments to think outside of the box. They are not only fostering creative ideas for ways in which to play music, but also in how to use the musical instruments for completely different things.

These instruments have created countless moments of social interaction and growth. Music creates community; it is joyful and fun, and on more than one occasion I see two or three friends banging on the drums together with nothing but smiles and laughs on their faces. Playing the musical instruments together on the playground creates opportunities for social interaction skills. If two friends disagree on how to play, they learn how to resolve the conflict. Assuming the latter occurs, they then learn how to use each other to think of new creative ideas and work together. Having music on the playground creates one more outlet for these opportunities for social growth to occur.

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Music is a unique tool in that it is an artistic activity that can extend its educational impact to numerous other areas of development. Furthermore, it is one of the most natural ways to feel and express emotion as well as create a joyful sense of community. It has been wonderful to see children growing and further developing their skills using the instruments on St. David’s Center’s new inclusive playground, and I can’t wait to see the new discoveries and experiences that will continue to occur in the future years.

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.

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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.

A tour of the world without leaving the playground

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.

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