Category Archives: Ghana

PlayGroundology’s on Cloud Nine

PlayGroundology has just wrapped its third year of blogging about the world of play and playgrounds. Following are nine posts that readers found popular. If you didn’t see them first time around, I hope you’ll take a moment to sample two, or three. If you like them, share with others – play never has a best before date. Happy playing and thanks for reading PlayGroundology!

Sculpted in France – Concrete Art Playgrounds

Photo credit: J. Bruchet. Source: Architectures de cartes postales. Designer: Pierre Székely. Cité des Jeux – L’Haÿ-les-Roses, France

I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for France so I’m always on the lookout for interesting play stories from that part of the world. Our family lived there in the early 70s. I was 12 when we arrived and 15 when we left. It was my gawky early adolescent phase which I like to think I’ve outgrown. (more…)

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Just Play

J

Just Play

play play
whether it’s alone or with friends
within four walls or under a great canvas of sky
just play

there are not enough hours
in a heartful life
to miss kaleidoscoping fun (more…)

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The Playground Paradise Principle

Paradise might be a bit of a stretch but Malmö, Sweden is quite simply playgroundalicious. It’s the kind of place that would inspire Mary Poppins to gather her young charges around her and umbrella them off to adventure – up through the atmosphere/ up where the air is clear/ let’s all/ go to Malmö. (more…)

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London’s Somerford Grove Adventure Playground Makes The New York Times Magazine

Source: Haringey Play Association. Click image to enlarge

There are four stunning, brilliant images in the March 1 edition of the The New York Times Magazine offering glimpses of children at the Somerford Grove Adventure Playground in London, England. (more…)

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A Journey of Epic Proportions

How do you spice up your morning commute to work and at the same time make it more meaningful? Look no further than my friend Chris Gregory for an answer. Chris is a champion for play at the Isle of Man’s leading children’s charity The Children’s Centre. To raise awareness for outdoor play and safe and playful routes for children, he is taking a different means of self propelled transport every workday for the month of March. His epic journey started out with a 3 kilometer spacehopper commute. Do I hear sore thighs? (more…) Note, Chris is in training for his second run at March 2 Work.

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Imagining a Better Future – Playtime in Africa

Source: Mmofra Foundation. Click image to enlarge

Two acres of green space in the Dzorwulu neighbourhood of Accra, Ghana are being primed for transformation. It’s all about the kids, or Mmofra as they are called in Ghana’s Akan language.

This story, about a small plot of land, spans decades, continents and generations. It’s the story of a woman’s vision, of her love for children. The seeds were sown 50 years ago when the late Efua Sutherland wrote her groundbreaking book on Ghana’s play culture, Playtime in Africa. The narrative and accompanying photographs by Willis E. Bell were the first real documentation of children’s play in the newly independent African nation. (more…)

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Sir Ken of TEDalot on Play and Learning

Earlier this spring, Sir Ken (Robinson) shared his views on education with an appreciative audience in Halifax, Nova Scotia – home of PlayGroundology. I was one of the 1,000 in attendance who enjoyed an accomplished and entertaining critic of conventional wisdom about education and creativity. No props, no notes, plenty of humourous asides and always an à propos anecdote. (more…)

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Have You Heard What They’re Saying About RISK? Listen Then Share

Generally speaking, parents want their kids to experience the fullness of the world – the quiet beauty, the dizzying adventure, the discovery of self and others. As much as possible we want to keep hurt and injury at bay but they too are part of the mix with cuts, scrapes and breaks both corporeal and psychological. So how do we go about assessing risk? How do we ensure that our kids aren’t enclosed in a cocoon of safety?

I saw this video a couple of nights ago and thought I would play a small role in helping to spread the word. Right now it’s at 373 views. After you’ve watched it, please share with your friends and your broader network.

Thanks to the Alliance for Childhood and KaBOOM! for producing this piece.

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The Unbearable Lightness of Swinging

There’s something cosmic about swinging, a certain je ne sais quoi. When I saw Teena Marie Fancey’s Baby Boy at The Craig Gallery on Dartmouth, Nova Scotia’s waterfront a couple of years ago, I knew I had found a great opening image for a paean to swings. Thanks Teena. (more…)

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Giving the Gift of Play

Gift of Play

Any time of the year is a good time for giving. But if this season speaks to you in a special way, consider giving the gift of play.

There are organizations around the world that help make play possible for kids. Here are a few whose work is both compelling and inspiring.

Northern Starfish (Canada)

In Canada, a barely into his teens Wes Prankard is working hard to make a difference. Northern Starfish, an organization he created, is working with First Nations communities across the country. His first engagement involved raising funds to build a playground in Attawapsikat, in northern Ontario. Three years later, playgrounds continue to be an important focus of the organization’s work as he explains here to the Assembly of First Nations.

Recently, Wes carted over 1,000,000,000 pennies he raised to a bank in his hometown as part of a campaign to the build 20 playgrounds across the Canada’s north. Click here if you would like to give Northern Starfish a hand.

Playground Builders (Canada)

From his base in British Columbia, Keith Reynolds and Playground Builders have built 116 playgrounds since 2007 in The Palestinian Territories, Afghanistan and other war-torn areas of the world. Keith gives a first hand account of the organization’s work in this Canadian Broadcasting Corporation national news interview.

Playground Builders is a registered charitable organization in Canada. The organization has both a Canadian and US foundation. Click through here if you are interested in supporting their work.

Playground IDEAS (Australia)

Marcus Veerman had an idea about kids, play and community empowerment. From his base in Australia, Playground IDEAS has worked and played with communities and kids throughout Asia, Africa and South America using indigenous and recycled materials to create colourful engaging playspaces. Just watch here and you’ll see what I mean.

Click here if you want to help Playground IDEAS build a “world of intelligent, happy, resilient children prepared to take on the complex challenges of the future”.

Empower Playgrounds (USA and Ghana)

Ben Markham and his team at Empower Playgrounds tag their work as lighting the world through recess. Markham is a retired ExxonMobil executive now bringing his talents to bear in Ghana, West Africa. Kids at play becomes energy that lights homes and schools.

Click through here for information on how to support the work of Empower Playgrounds.

East African Playgrounds (UK and Uganda)

East African Playgrounds was founded by two Leeds University students, Tom Gill and Carla Powell, in 2009. Volunteers have built playgrounds primarily in Uganda and Kenya. Here is the story of one of their early builds.

As far I have been able to determine, they are the only playground group who have had someone pledge to fundraise for them by doing handstands 365 days of the year. Julie Dumont has been on a handstandathon this year in a variety of venues. You can see some of them here in this article from The Telegraph.

Click through here for more on helping to support the work of East African Playgrounds.

This is just a small sample of of people and organizations doing good work in support of play. In communities throughout the world there are local activities and builds taking place that frequently are in need of financial or volunteer support. Keep your eyes open for opportunities. A newish kid on the block is crowdfunding as this item from BBC News London explores.

Remember anytime is a good time to give the gift of play. Merry Christmas from Halifax, Canada.

Imagining a Better Future – Playtime in Africa

Two acres of green space in the Dzorwulu neighbourhood of Accra, Ghana are being primed for transformation. It’s all about the kids, or Mmofra as they are called in Ghana’s Akan language.

This story, about a small plot of land, spans decades, continents and generations. It’s the story of a woman’s vision, of her love for children. The seeds were sown 50 years ago when the late Efua Sutherland wrote her groundbreaking book on Ghana’s play culture, Playtime in Africa. The narrative and accompanying photographs by Willis E. Bell were the first real documentation of children’s play in the newly independent African nation.

Sutherland was part of a post colonial cultural renaissance, a storyteller, an educator, a playwright and a community builder. Bell, an ex-patriated American, was in the process of establishing himself as a leading documentary photographer in the country. His work is considered to be an important part of Ghana’s visual arts culture.

From Playtime in Africa – Courtesy Mmofra Foundation. Click photo for larger image.

Sutherland was also an untiring ambassador for play, an advocate emphasizing its importance in developing young minds and bodies. Her life of service established her as a cultural icon within Ghana and brought her work to the attention of a broader international audience: there is an Efua Sutherlandstraat in Amsterdam. On her retirement in the 1990’s she set the groundwork establishing Mmofra Foundation to continue her advocacy for children.

From Playtime in Africa – Courtesy Mmofra Foundation. Click photo for larger image.

Now fast forward – time and space shift. Amowi Phillips is an adjunct professor at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. She is seven time zones and half a lifetime removed from this same plot of land where she played as a child. She is one of Efua Sutherland’s three children, a volunteer board member of the Mmofra Foundation, president of a newly formed partner organization, Friends of Mmofra, in Washington State, USA and one of the kids captured forever young in Playtime in Africa.

From Playtime in Africa – Courtesy Mmofra Foundation. Click photo for larger image.

Fifty years ago Playtime in Africa introduced this very rich, nuanced play culture of Ghana to the world. That really bears some sharing. It’s a reminder of the sankofa principle – keeping what is of value from the past.

Amowi Phillips – Member, Board of Directors Mmofra Foundation

From Playtime in Africa – Courtesy Mmofra Foundation. Click photo for larger image.

Phillips, her two siblings Esi and Ralph, and the Foundation, are helping to lead the charge to create a public natural play space for children on this two acre plot that fuelled so many happy memories from their own childhood. They are uniquely qualified to do so. Ralph will be the principal architect, and Esi, an international consultant on education and a professor of African Studies, is the executive director of Mmofra Foundation.

They hope the project will serve as a prototype to encourage child-centered spaces in Ghana’s cities. In the 1980s, the forward-thinking Efua Sutherland conceptualized park-library complexes throughout the country. Pilots were built at the village and city levels, but were allowed over time to fall into disrepair and ruin.

If we are able to galvanize public advocacy for a thoughtfully designed child-friendly green core in central Accra, it will be a fresh start.

Amowi Phillips

From Playtime in Africa – Courtesy Mmofra Foundation. Click photo for larger image.

At the end of May, the Foundation is organizing a design charrette on site in Accra’s Dzorwulu neighbourhood. This is the next big step in re-imagining the use of the land, in creating a space for play. Community stakeholders, designers, architects, indigenous knowledge specialists and elders, landscape architects, planners and politicians are being invited to participate. Architecture for Humanity has encouraged the project.

“Our concept is very much about inscribing the culture of Ghana into the landscape, enhanced by elements adapted from other parts of the world. We’ll have to see what happens on the ground,” says Phillips. The three siblings will participate in the charrette injecting their passion for play and for children into a place that was once their own land of daily adventure.

From Playtime in Africa – Courtesy Mmofra Foundation. Click photo for larger image.

Another important consideration for the Foundation is to design a space in such a way that people can take elements of it and reproduce them in their own neighbourhoods. “We want to be intentional about creating room where children can develop their imagination and creativity,” continues Phillips.

Through their work, the Foundation is finding out about similar projects in other parts of Africa such as South Sudan and Sénégal. For Phillips, it’s time for Africa to be part of the global conversation about spaces for imaginative play and discovery and she sees herself as a connector, having brought together an international coalition of people who are passionate about play around this project.

An online search for a children’s parks or museums yields very little between Cairo and Cape Town. Without environments where children can imagine a better future, dependency can really become entrenched.

Amowi Phillips

Source: Mmofra Foundation. Click image to enlarge

Playtime in Africa from the land of Anansi stories, adinkra patterns and kente cloth. As with so many things in life – nsa baako nkura adesoa – one hand cannot lift a heavy load. To participate in the development of this playspace, contact Mmofra Foundation.

Round and Round, Up and Down Brightens Up Africa

Play is power. It’s the power to generate electricity, the power to pump water. The right designs can make play double up as work for up and down, see-sawers and spinny spin roundabouters.

Empower Playgrounds Inc.

In Ghana West Africa, Empower Playgrounds are as they say, ‘lighting the world with recess’. All the tireless playground energy is captured to burn bright as sun falls into night.

For the kids it is a whirl of fun and laughter. See for yourself.

This is exactly what Ben Markham, a retired Vice-President of Engineering, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering, had in mind when he started play to around with an idea that turned out to be very illuminating.

Find more about Ben, his team, Empower Playground Inc. and their partners here. I’m sure this transformative play for light would have received the Kwame Nkrumah and E.F Schumacher seals of approval…

PlayMade Energy

The Energee-Saw, pioneered by the UK’s Daniel Sheridan, was initially tested in Uganda in 2008. A revised design was tested in Malawi. This video shows PlayMade Energy’s Energee-Saw in action PlayMadeEnergy in the world’s least electrified continent.

Kids will be able to study longer as a direct result of their own hard play. It may take a village to raise a child but apparently it takes a child to light the way.

PlayPumps

I was introduced to the PlayPump earlier this week and thought it was a marvelous piece of utilitarian fun. That’s sure what it looks like in this 2008 report from the National Geographic Society.

It turns out that an appropriate technology that took regions of Africa, aid organizations and foundations by storm wasn’t in fact the best fit, the most efficient, or least expensive solution to help promote and create water security.

There is some difference of opinion now as to the PlayPump’s efficiency and efficacy. Many financial supporters have backed away from the project and villagers have requested a return to the handpump.

PBS did a documentary on Frontline World in June 2010. It’s available for viewing here.

Harnessing kids’ energy through play is a great idea. Let’s hope it continues and benefits the kids who are providing the fun equity.

P.S. – thanks to Neil who got me thinking about writing this post.