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.

Supporting parks and recreation professionals

We are excited to announce the 12th Annual State Speaker Scholarship Program has launched! he 2020-2021 program will support the appearances of keynote speakers at state parks and recreation associations’ annual or regional conferences.

Recipients of the 2020-2021 scholarship will receive $2,500. New for this program year, we’re providing one complimentary Play Healthy™ Hand Sanitizer Station to each state association awarded a scholarship to raffle off, donate or share with a member.

“We are proud to continue our support of state parks and recreation associations through this scholarship program,” said Lynn Pinoniemi, vice president of marketing at Landscape Structures. “We are grateful for the work that these associations and their members do, especially during these unprecedented times. By providing spaces for play and recreation, they are truly helping shape the lives of everyone in their communities.”

Since the scholarship program’s inception in 2009, Landscape Structures has awarded nearly 265 scholarships to state associations and more than $660,000 to support the appearances of speakers at park and recreation conferences throughout the nation. To complete an application for Landscape Structures’ 2020-2021 State Association Speaker Scholarship, visit playlsi.com/speaker-scholarship/.

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!

Funding options to make your playground a reality

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Building, updating and maintaining playgrounds takes money. The good news is there is grant money available, you just need to know where to look. Our grant resources help navigate the playground grant process. Request our grant resources, which include nationwide and international grant opportunities, here.

In addition to playground grant resources, we have many purchasing and funding options that can help bring your playground dreams to fruition.

A great school or neighborhood playground provides a safe place for children to stay active and improve their social skills. Contact us today to get started on your next playground design.

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The new shape of play

Play is the universal language of fun, of collaboration, of growing. Play is key to helping kids become better adults. So we create playstructures to amaze and inspire, challenge and empower, promote empathy and pride. We create playstructures that are design-focused and packed with play value to give every child every opportunity to play from every angle. We are always working to create the new shape of play. Because play will always shape us.

2020 Playground Equipment Catalog

You’ll find everything you need to complete your play environment. From new products to featured designs, individual components and fitness equipment, we’ll ensure your play space is everything you imagine and more. Browse our virtual publication, then request a copy.

2020 SkyWays® Shade Catalog

Give kids and families much needed heat and sun protection while visiting any play, rest or activity area. From small to big shade, decorative to themed shade, we have flexible and stylish options for everywhere people like to gather. Browse the SkyWays® Shade Products virtual catalog, then request a copy.

2020 Aquatix® Catalog

Our imaginative designs continue to advance the world of dynamic water events—achieving new levels of chilling thrills, challenging interactive games and inventive water-based activities. Invite kids and families of all ages and abilities to immerse themselves in the brilliance of an Aquatix® water experience. Browse the Aquatix virtual catalog, then request a copy.

The best of the 2010s

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We are kicking off a new decade in 2020. But before we do, we wanted to reflect on the past one as it has been filled with play! See the best of the 2010s in the form of our most read blog posts.

1. Limited editions
I’m terrible at keeping up with current politically correct labels. It’s a real problem in my life because as a wheelchair user, you’d think I’d be an authority on it. However, I’m not sure what the term is this week. It moves from handicapped to wheelchair-bound, to disabled or special needs. Differently-abled. Handi-capable. I’ve heard it all.

2. Five considerations for your toddler and preschool playgrounds
To help you create a dream playground for your daycare or preschool that focuses on toddlers’ developmental needs in mind, we created a fun infographic.

3. Spreading the message of inclusion
We’re working with Shane’s Inspiration to promote the animated short film, “Ian,” which aims to help children understand disability and spread the message of inclusion.

4. How to design nature playground environments
Not many of us would disagree that technology is great—it provides convenience, fun and connection to everything. However, all of that technology has also changed the way children play. Kids are spending more time inside, in front of screens and they’re being less active.

5. Case study: Play reimagined
The giant 1950’s microphone-inspired tower heralds the horizon, but the built-in play value is what really makes this park honoring local radio DJ Paco Sanchez truly extraordinary. Brilliant colors and bold presence aside, it’s the imaginative use of the musical references that do the hard work of delivering dynamic play.

6. Imagine the possibilities of your splash pad
Looking for inspiration for your next spray park or splash pad design? Look no further. Aquatix by Landscape Structures has pulled together a sampling of featured projects that have been designed and installed throughout the country. The water park designs highlight new product innovations as well as classic water play activities that create remarkable aqua play environments.

7. Connecting kids to nature with natural playground designs
When it comes to themed playground designs, it’s all about natural playgrounds. At least that’s what experts are saying according to the article, “Let your Imagination Run Wild” in the February edition of Parks & Recreation magazine. Our very own Scott Roschi, creative director, says nature-themed playground equipment is so popular because community leaders are looking for ways to reconnect kids to the natural world around them.

8. First inclusive playground opens in Russia
On Monday, Feb. 10, we celebrated from afar the grand opening of the first inclusive playground in Russia. The inclusive playground was installed in association with the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi.

9. Tell a story with your playground colors
You may have seen that we introduced eight new colors to make your playground designs pop, blend in or tell a unique story. But with all the infinite number of colors available, how did we choose peacock, buttercup, sky, grass, berry, lagoon, paprika and carbon?

10. Are splash pads the new public pool
Geographical areas that experience their version of “warm weather”, whether that be a few scorching months of summer, or relatively mild temperatures nearly year round, are most likely familiar with the concept of a nearby cool-off zone. For many decades, that has meant a community pool where families and nearby residents could gather to seek relief from the sun and expend warm-weather energy.

Thank you for tuning in to Together We Play over the past decade. We’re looking forward to an exciting year of play; tell us below what you’d like to see more of in 2020 and we’ll do our best to share it here.

The season of joy

The season of Joy

The end of the year brings no greater joy than the opportunity to express to you our heartfelt gratitude. Thank you for using play to celebrate children, families and entire communities. We know that the work we’re doing together is shaping the lives of the next generation.

Happy holidays from all of us at Landscape Structures, Aquatix and SkyWays.

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.

A winning booth design: How it’s made

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Last week, we were in Baltimore for the 2019 NRPA Annual Conference. We had a great time connecting with everyone in the exhibit hall, and were honored to have our booth space awarded Best in Show. So how does a tradeshow booth get designed? We talked with Scott Roschi, creative director, and Allison Koeckeritz, custom playground designer, about how their vision for the space came together.

The overall design idea for the tradeshow booth was a contemporary coffee shop. “We wanted to take our past idea of hospitality to the next level, and created the feeling of a coffee shop overlooking a park with a great playground,” explained Scott. Plus, they aimed to create cozy spaces where visitors to the booth could come together for semi-private meetings.

The goal was to create a warm and inviting space, and Scott and Allison achieved that with a unique palette of materials and colors. “The trend is moving from rose gold into warmer, earthy colors like the copper we used throughout the space,” said Scott.

“The inspiration for the copper elements came from the lights we used over the coffee bar and in the cozy spaces,” said Allison.

Industrial aspects were integrated into the design including raw wood table tops and accents, pipes and strategically placed copper pieces. “It was truly about creating a sensory-rich experience with great coffee and good conversation,” added Scott. A special thanks to nParallel, our production partner, in helping bring this vision to life.

The pair also incorporated interactive elements, which is where the wall of chalk art popped up. The idea was to create an Instagram-worthy photo opp for visitors. To keep the design authentic, we commissioned chalk artist, Jeff Nelson or @jephemera, to help. Check out the timelapse of his process below.

Hitting the streets of Baltimore

The 2019 NRPA Annual Conference is just five days away, and we’re excited to get to Baltimore to connect, learn and discover with all of you. If you’re planning to attend the Conference, mark your calendar to join us throughout the week.

DISCOVER.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, we’ll be in the Exhibit Hall in booths 3003 and 2806. In the Landscape Structures booth, you’ll find lots of playground inspiration, fun products and opportunities to recharge. Our friends at Aquatix will be nearby ready to talk all things splash play, inclusive spray play and more.

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CONNECT.
Tuesday evening, we’ll be at Eutaw Street – Oriole Park at Camden Yards celebrating the work our customers are doing to shape the lives of children.

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LEARN.
Join us for our education session, Spray Play for All: Designing Inclusive Splash Parks, on Thursday, Sept. 26, at 11 a.m. You’ll hear from our experts, John McConkey and Bill Hachmeister, as well as Ingrid Kanics, president of Kanics Inclusive Design Services, and Rickie Yeager, the development director with the City of Parkersburg, W.V.

Get more details about the NRPA Annual Conference including keynote speakers, workshops and more. And be sure to stop by our booths to connect with us!