Category Archives: Playground blog

Treasure Maps and Playground Pirates

In North America, it’s the season to see bands of pint-sized pirates, cowboys, astronauts, superheroes, Mario Brothers and others out and about in the streets in preparation for the annual Hallowe’en pilgrimmage. Our Nellie-Rose took on a swashbuckling persona at a recent visit to a community centre party. She makes for a very fetching pirate captain I think – eat your heart out Johnny.

By serendipitous happenstance, at the same time Nellie-Rose was suiting up for her arrgh me maties moments, my inbox goes ping with a London’s calling treasure. It’s a great email from Verônica telling me all about the new venture she’s embarked on with her partner Rodrigo – mapping the playgrounds of the world.

Map View – London

Following an afternoon in downtown London, these transplanted Brazilians were looking for a playground break for their daughter who was beyond bored after a shopping expedition. There was nothing in sight and when they used their mobile devices to look for something all that came up were Thai Restaurants and Sex Shops – not the fare they were interested in.

That experience inspired Verônica and Rodrigo to get mapping. They are setting sail and inviting playground lovers to join the crew. While adventuring, they will locate and mark treasure troves with an ‘X’, well okay, with a swing icon actually.

It’s early days for Our Treasure Map, its companion blog and Facebook Page so the number of sites are limited and concentrated primarily in London, UK. The plan is to reach out and incorporate already available information and track down new data.

Map View Brasilia

Our Treasure Map’s Brazilian friends have been busy loading up the platform with playgrounds from Brasilia, Rio and Sao Paulo. There’s plenty of room for adding more playgrounds and other child engaging activities and places. The site has a mobile version and the couple are working on developing an app too.

Rocket Playground at Ana Lidai Park in Brasilia.

When the sky is the limit, there’s lots to do and plenty of room to fly. I tried the ‘add a playground’ feature – it’s totally painless. Our Treasure Map now has its first entry from Nova Scotia a few kilometres from our home and not far from a popular swimming beach. Add something yourself and don’t forget the photos. They can make all the difference.

Verônica and Rodrigo are looking for feedback on Our Treasure Map 1.0 and will make changes and introduce new elements based on what they hear from users. So do drop into the Facebook Page and let them know what’s working for you and what you might like to see added. My parting comment – I love the little pirate guy, reminds me of our Noah-David.

Help chart the course of play and share your playground riches on Our Treasure Map. Happy Hallowe’en…

Cheap Thrills – Playgrounding on Vacation

Has there been ample traipsing around museums, trudging through shopping centres, interminable amusement park screeling and screeching, enough blue-lipped, sand-encrusted, beachy shivering for your young ones this vacation?

Aground – La Grave, Magdalen Islands, Canada

For the seven or eight and under crowd, maybe it’s time for a playground holiday visit. They’re fun fueled, inexpensive, physically active outings. Often there’s unfamiliar equipment for the kids to scramble about on, something they’ve never seen before. And what better place to meet local kids for fleeting friendships.

Red and Yellow – Fatima, Magdalen Islands, Canada

This August we’ve had a week in the islands, The Magdalen Islands in Canada’s Gulf of the St. Lawrence. We’ve hit a few playgrounds between beach and backyard games. The kids want a return engagement with every one of them. Here’s a quick slide show of les terrains de jeux des Iles.

Morning Skies – L’Étang du nord, Magdalen Islands, Canada

Tips for holiday playground hunting:

– check the local town or city’s website, if you’re lucky playgrounds will be listed. One of the best I’ve come across is New York City;

– check the local school board for a listing of schools. Inquire to determine if school playgrounds are accessible after hours and during summer holidays. Unfortunately that’s not the case in all jurisdictions;

– check the KaBOOM! Playspace Finder, great for US and parts of Canada;

– if you’re very lucky there will be a local playground blogger where you’re going. Here’s a little shameless promotion of my Halifax, Nova Scotia – PlayGround Chronicles. Other playground bloggers are noted in the left hand column;

– ask, or do the wander walkabout.

Country hills – Ile d’Entrée, Magdalen Islands, Canada

Happy vacation…

Newsreel Playgrounds – British Pathé

Thanks to the assignment editors, producers and cinematographers at British Pathé for this selection of playgroundabilia ranging from 1939 to 1967 in various UK locales.

Click on the image to be taken to the play page. Clips can be played at full screen and each has a detailed shot list. Enjoy and thanks again to British Pathé for making their inventory available for public viewing.

Hold on tight, there is royalty, glitterati from both sides of the pond and of course plenty of kids starring in these reels.

Bolton Schoolyard Playground – 1939 – Runtime: 00:50

South Bank, London – 1953 – Runtime: 01:24

Come Out To Play, Reel 1 – 1950-59 – Runtime: 06:11

Come Out To Play, Reel 2 – 1950-59 – Runtime: 06:56

Adventure Playground, Crawley, West Sussex – 1967 – Runtime: 01:46

ScreenShot Mondays – Gertrude Howes Playground

A couple of Mondays per month, PlayGroundology will screenshot a cyberspot that focuses on playgrounds, or play. I hope that readers will dive in and explore. Even if you’ve seen the selection before, take a moment and check to see what content has been added recently.

Think of this as a very slow stumble upon, an invitation to relish something new or to revisit an old friend. Some of the people and places may be household names in the world of play and playgrounds, others not so much. I hope all will pique your interest in what they have to offer and further your own possibilities for playfulness.

Gertrude Howes Playground

If you drop in now on Gertrude Howes Playground, it’s kind of like getting in on the ground floor. The blog has only been getting published for scant days. Its focus is documenting an urban neighbourhood’s refurbishment of, you guessed it, Gertrude Howes Playground. There’s plenty here to preserve including the green space and the Roxbury puddingstone.

For some reason when I look at the plans, I think of Pooh’s 100 Acre Wood full of gentle adventure and philosophical musings. Enjoy this opportunity to see how a community breathes new life into a cherished outdoor play space. Read the blog, follow the tweets @HowesPlayground.

A Salute to Mrs. J

I’ve never met Mrs. J but I know I’d like her. She’s the kind of teacher that encourages curious minds and creates a discovery zone for her young charges. I came across her website a couple of months ago and have been meaning to feature it for some time. Today is the day.

Our five-year-old son is enjoying his first year in school and loves his primary teacher, Mrs. Smith (no relation). As we concluded our parent – teacher meeting this afternoon, I was reminded how much we should treasure and thank these caring and creative professionals.

Mrs. J is an art teacher for K – 5 in Nashville, Tennessee. Her blog is chock full of great projects just as suitable for home as for school. She also has an excellent blog roll. Plenty of material here to keep the young ones arty for quite some time.

I was attracted to Mrs. J’s playground project for a grade one class. Here is the wall of play.

The ‘Build your own Playground’ lesson is right here. What if we could get 1000s of digital images of kids’ art depicting playgrounds to create a virtual gallery in support of those parents who are trying to get recess restored in their schools?

Do you want to play? Have kids, classes, teachers, parents send digitized art to:

@playgroundology, or

playgroundology@gmail.com

Thanks to Mrs. J for the great art project ideas, for the playground artwork and for the inspiration. When we saw our son’s pride today as he read to us and showed us his work it made me think that Mrs. J and Mrs. Smith are cut from the same wondrous cloth.

Lights, Camera, Action

Actually this post is about school, recess and playgrounds. These three words should be as intrinsically linked in the popular consciousness as the trio in the title. There’s just as much drama and adventure on most recess playgrounds as there is on a movie shoot. Recess action for the most part is unrehearsed and the cast are all naturals – it’s an organic kind of thing. Really what we have is a linear progression in that string of words, a causality of sorts – a place of learning, a time for release, and a designated space for physical play.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been giving more thought to recess. We are in our first real snap of cold and snow on Nova Scotia’s Halifax coastline. Our primary school aged son has come home on a couple of occasions recently lamenting that there has been no recess and no outdoor play at lunch. The cold, cold is the culprit with temperatures plummeting for a few days into the feels like -25°C (-13°F) with wind chill.

Cancellation of recess for reasons of severe cold is a quandary that school boards and principals in many parts of the world have to deal with each winter. Here in the tundra. on the up side of North America’s 49th parallel, the cold temperatures threshold resulting in cancellations varies. In Edmonton it’s -23°C (-9°F), in Winnipeg -30°C (-22°F), in Toronto -28°C (-18°F). When the cold fronts and extreme temps move on, the kids get back out to play and this is a very fine thing indeed for both kids and teachers I’m sure.

In Halifax the kids are back out now blowing off steam, having some fun. We’re fortunate that our schools are well equipped with playgrounds and other play areas. More importantly, there is a commitment to making this time available to the kids for unstructured, free play. The best of the best, these playgrounds – maintained and operated by the municipality not the school board – are accessible to the public virtually 24/7.

This happy state of affairs is not the case in all jurisdictions. Through my recent, late adopter adventures in twitterland, I’ve discovered that there are some places where recess has been shut down. It just doesn’t exist any longer. Fellow blogger and twitterite Meg Rosker is campaigning to bring back recess at her local elementary school in Redington Shores, Florida. When I read about her campaign, I had a bit of fun tweeting a riff which Meg joined.

@playgroundology
school without recess is like peanut butter without jelly.

@megroskerplay
school without recess is like summer without ice cream.

@playgroundology
school with out recess is like the sky without a sun

@megroskerplay
school without recess is like a smore without marshmallows.

@playgroundology
school without recess is like a rainbow without the colour.

@megroskerplay
school without recess is like Halloween without candy.

@playgroundology
school without recess is like humour without laughter

You get the drift, we think that schools and recess are inseparable companions like rough and tumble, best buddies like Toopy and Binoo. We’re not alone. The New York Times has reported on the results of a study by the Albert Einstein School of Medicine. The study provides empirical evidence for what many of us know viscerally – recess and play are good for kids – mentally and physically.

The next time you pass by a school at recess, stop, look and listen. The playground is like an orchestra in motion, kinetic soundscapes of bobbing colour. This is where the kids rule, where they run, talk, laugh and find common cause. This is where their thirst for free form fun is getting quenched. When I do get the chance to hear it, that rolling crescendo made possible by a critical mass of kids, I invariably smile. It takes me back to my own childhood, to british bulldog, red rover, tag, sports and the freedom to play.

If you’re in a school district where recess is under threat, join up with other parents and present school board officials with evidence-based studies on the value of recess for our children. There are a number of helpful documents posted on Carol Torgan’s 100+ Top Play Resources page, in particular the ‘Guidelines and Reports’ section. There’s also the U.S. based National Association for Sports and Physical Education site. Just pump in ‘recess’ in their search function and you’ll get a good cross section of material such as this position statement that also includes a brief bibliography.

_________________________________________________________

Please join Meg and I’s riff by completing this sentence:

school without recess is like…..

Tweet your responses to @playgroundology or email to playgroundology@gmail.com.

A parting thought…

All materials, unless otherwise attributed or credited, copyright ⓒ 2011 Alex Smith.

If you’re a non-profit or not-for-profit group, feel free to hyperlink, excerpt, or reproduce the contents of this post. Please reference PlayGroundology. For commercial reproduction of this content, please consult the editor.

TV Promo for Local Investment Stars Playground Manufacturer

French and English language television stations in Canada are broadcasting a 30 second pitch in support of a labour led capital investment fund promoting economic development – Le Fonds de solidarité FTQ. The star of the show is playground manufacturer Jambette. Viewers watch as a play structure is manufactured before their eyes, then are asked to invest locally.

The Fédération des Travailleurs et Travailleuses de Québec (FTQ) – Quebec Federation of Labour – has teamed up with Jambette to make a tasteful promo linking investment in local enterprises today to economic well-being tomorrow. The catchy techno riff is taken from Pop Goes the World by the 1980s Montréal group Men Without Hats.

Playgrounds representing hope for the future, positioned as an investment – this is something I love to see. What’s more, there’s a funky beat.

Jambette is well known on the Canadian scene with installations from coast to coast. Here’s one of their structures at the École Stella Maris in Québec’s Magdalen Islands.