Guest Blog: City Parks Create Important Foundation for Youth

martin-luther-king-playground-banner

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.

Print

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.

Mankato Downtown Kiwanis to create inclusive playground with Legacy of Play award

Legacy-of-Play-blog

A fourth grader who uses a wheelchair will soon get to play on the playground with her friends. Her story helped convinced a panel of judges to award the Mankato Downtown Kiwanis Club $25,000 worth of inclusive playground equipment in the Legacy of Play Contest, sponsored by Landscape Structures Inc. and Kiwanis International. The award will be used to develop the Fallenstein Playground, an all-inclusive playground where children and families of all abilities can develop, discover, laugh and experience the joy of play.

Mankato, 75 miles southwest of Minneapolis, is renowned for its great parks and trails, and offers breathtaking landscapes of rivers, lakes, ravines, bluffs, natural prairies and forested areas. With a population of nearly 41,000, Mankato offers small town living in a thriving regional center. The all-inclusive Fallenstein Playground will be located adjacent to Fallenstein Field, the fully accessible baseball field used by the Miracle League of North Mankato, in Caswell Park.

mankato-park-blog

The Mankato Downtown Kiwanis Club will complete its inclusive playground project on or around Kiwanis One Day in October 2018. Learn more about the project.

Case Study: Honoring a life cut short

madisonoverall

Client: Madison Claire Foundation, Woodbury, Minn.

Designers: Gabriel Cotten, Landscape Structures playground designer

Goal: After the loss of their daughter, Madison, Dana and Dave Millington wanted to create an inclusive playground to honor Madison’s short life while also delivering a space for families of all abilities to gather and experience “normal” activities.

Solution: After getting input from the rehabilitation team at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital and talking to parents of children with disabilities, Dana and the Madison Claire Foundation’s Board of Directors broadened their idea of inclusive play to account for as many different situations as possible.

The inclusive playground design is fully ramped and includes many sensory-stimulating activities including a double ZipKrooz®, Sway Fun® glider, Cozy Dome®, We-saw™, Sensory Play Center®, OmniSpin® spinner, Roller Table and Oodle® Swing. Even more, there is a custom sensory tunnel, which is the highlight of the inclusive play design. The plum tunnel, with its star cutouts and marbles, invites intrigued visitors to step inside. Once inside, it’s a kaleidoscope of light and colors as the movement of the sun casts colorful stars on the opposite wall.

tunnel_inside

Read more about how Madison’s Place has created a space for families to create lasting and happy memories.

Case Study: Smart playground design

Venti02a_blog

Client: Birchview Elementary School, Plymouth, Minn.

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

Venti06_blog

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.

Make Your Mark with Playground Design

Whether realized or not, the design of our surrounding environment influences how we engage, learn and develop. A playground is a social space, and every child is different. That’s why we design playgrounds that honor each child’s pathway, while offering fun and exciting new challenges.

Venti_BlogRhapsody_Overll_blog

It’s possible to create unique playground designs at an affordable price tag. Incorporate Smart Play®: Venti® along with freestanding play components like our Rhapsody™ Outdoor Musical Instruments to create a unique space with a variety of play experiences.

OverallWatkinsWabun_Blog

Playgrounds come in all shapes, sizes and styles. You can bring a fantasy world to life by incorporating customized playground components into your design. Watkins Regional Park in Upper Marlboro, Md., based its design on the story of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Or use custom playground design to celebrate the heritage of your community. The Wabun Picnic Area at Minnehaha Regional Park in Minneapolis, Minn., steps back in time with a thematic nod to its origins as an auto tourist camp.

Jonesboro-_Blog

Bring children and families of all abilities together for play with an inclusive playground design. By keeping the needs of all users in mind during the design process, you can create a play environment like the Jonesboro Miracle League Park in Jonesboro, Ark., that increases access, safety, comfort and social participation.

Tom Sawyer Island at Amelia Earhart Park

The great outdoors is the number one spot where kids can play naturally—making up their own games while freely exploring the world around them. The playground on Tom Sawyer Island at Amelia Earhart Park in Hialeah, Fla., helps promote outdoor adventure with its recycled wood-grain panels, woodsy color scheme, and nature-inspired climbers that mimic rocks, mushrooms and logs.

Learn more about how you can #MakeYourMark in playground design by viewing our infographic, then contact your local playground consultant to get started on your next playground project.

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.

StDavidsMusic04

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.

StDavidsMusic03

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.

Video Case Study: Community playground builds

There’s something particularly satisfying about watching kids run, jump and climb on a playground built by a community. As you begin the playground planning process, consider making your project a community build. Not only can it help save costs, but it also brings neighbors and communities closer together. Watch the video below to see how Annandale Elementary School in Annandale, Minn., and their local Lions Club worked together to build new school playgrounds.

Learn more about community playground builds at playlsi.com, and contact your local playground consultant to request our Guide to Community Build Playgrounds.