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.

Happy Birthday PlayGroundology

Noah-David’s rendition of our local playground – Halifax, Canada

Happy 1st birthday PlayGroundology!

This joyful sweep of lines and colours with blue skies sailing is just the perfect scene to represent the fun and adventure I’m experiencing with PlayGroundology. Since the first post in January 2010, I am continuously surprised by people’s generosity, by the richness, variation and sometimes audacity in playground design and by children’s imaginative spontaneity.

Over the course of the year, I’ve had the chance to speak or correspond with many fine people in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australasia. Many of them are advocates for play, some are aficionados and others activists. All have provided their insights – words, memories, photos. Their stories and images are the heartbeat of this small corner of the playground universe. Thanks to all of you.

Thanks also to the readers, the tweeters, the commenters, the bloggers, tumblrs, flickrites and facebookers. I appreciate your sharing of links and content, getting this blog in front of an expanding audience. We’re growing modestly with just over 16,000 views in the first year. That’s more than enough to keep me getting up at crazy hours of the morning to do a little research and writing.

In case you haven’t read them already, here are some of the more popular posts from the first year.


Screen shots of some of the more popular posts – click here or on the image above.

Manhattan’s Bronze Guy
Anthropomorphic architecture installation – Playground – by sculptor Tom Otterness and Playgroundology’s first post.

Go Tell it on the Mountain – Montréal’s Salamander Playground
Montréal’s Salamander Playground incorporates new forms and equipment in a design by Cardinal Hardy Architects. Located in the city’s Mount Royal Park, it opened in June 2009 and is becoming a desination playscape within the city.

Playground Access for All Abilities
Research study, after research study has proven that children need to play. Children need to play because it makes them healthier and less likely to become obese. Children need to play because it makes them more focused in school. Children need to play because it teaches them social skills that are essential to becoming adept adults. Although play has been decreasing from our landscape, many children are still out there playing on playgrounds.

The Playgrounds of Flickrville
The web is wide and deep – an ever expanding repository of sound, text and light. We’re in a golden age of information sharing. On the images side of the equation, it’s a global photorush and Flickr is the motherlode. With 4 billion images and counting, this is a visual feast fit for a gourmet. It is now established as one of the primary digital meeting places for people who want to share photos and their interest in specific subject matter.

Popular Mechanics on the Playground Beat
I remember Popular Mechanics as a boy growing up in the 1960s. One of the trademarks was a small font size. They also had wondrous plans, superb graphics and fine photos. Until I stumbled across an old issue, I had never considered it as a resource for playground research. At the turn of the last century, Popular Mechanics had started chronicling the playground world in the United States. Who knew?

In the year ahead, PlayGroundology will be featuring artists, designers, thinkers, great playground cities, playground organizations and of course more innovative playgrounds, playscapes and playspaces. If you have a story idea for us to go after, or a guest post you’d like to contribute, contact us at – playgroundolgy@gmail.com.

It’s been a fine first year – bit of a magic bus ride. I hope you’ll join us for the rest of the trip.

All materials, unless otherwise attributed or credited, copyright ⓒ 2010 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.

Tunisian Playgrounds

PlayGroundology’s last post featured images from towns and cities that skirt the arctic circle in those north of 60 kind of places that are characterized by snow, snow and more snow. Hundreds of visitors have popped in to the Northern Playgrounds flickr gallery in the last few days.

More photos today – this time a little contrast as we go to North Africa’s Maghreb. Watch for crenellated turrets, kneeling dromedaries and retro equipment in these shots from Tunisia.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Google and flickr have very limited offerings of playground images from Tunisia. These will supplement the online public record. Thanks to Nicole Cordeau who took these photos while vacationing in Tunisia in the fall of 2010. Nicole is very supportive of her son-in-law’s playground meanderings…

As you enjoy the images, spare a thought for the people of Tunisia who are currently experiencing some difficult times.

Paying Homage to Adventure and Free Play

If you’re in LA, or passing through in the next two days, check out Kelly Barrie’s exhibit at LAXART. His photos sing out a catchy song of freedom and play. If you’re like me and LA isn’t in the cards in the immediate future then enjoy Barrie’s photos right here at PlayGroundology.

Double Toe Rope Netting, 2010
Digital C-print
125 x 92 inches
Image courtesy of LAXART and Kelly Barrie

For all photos, click for larger image.

Get ready because they jump off the screen. I’m inspired to climb, run, dangle and skittle down steep inclines. These photos are laughter ringing, play being, adventure believing. I hope you’ll enjoy these images. Even motionless, they are bursting with kinetic energy.


Reclaimed Sewer Pipe, 2010
Digital C-print
74 x 110 inches framed
Image courtesy of LAXART and Kelly Barrie

Negative Capability was inspired by Barrie’s memories of the junkyard playgrounds of his youth in England. Thanks to Sharon Mizota at the Los Angeles Times I found out about this exhibition and subsequently contacted Barrie.


Plank Ladder, 2010
Digital C-print
14 x 74 inches framed
Image courtesy of LAXART and Kelly Barrie

I have never had the pleasure of playing in an adventure playground. They were unknown in the places I grew up. Everything that I see and read about them though convinces me that I have to make sure my kids will get a chance to experience their wonder.


Heel Spin Pyramid, 2010
Digital C-print
74 x 92 inches framed
Image courtesy of LAXART and Kelly Barrie

This is a tunnel to an alternate form of play, to a space that is challenging, to new discoveries.


Reclaimed Sewer Pipe (detail), 2010
Digital C-print
74 x 110 inches framed
Image courtesy of LAXART and Kelly Barrie

This is the great escape – freedom to play, imagine, and to be.


Installation view LAXART, 2010
Image courtesy of LAXART and Kelly Barrie

Below is the news release issued by LAXART for the exhibition.

LAXART is pleased to present a new project by Los Angeles-based artist Kelly Barrie. Inspired by the junkyard playground in London where the artist played as a child, Negative Capability is inspired by the 1959 Declaration of the Rights of the Child (which was amended to the Universal Human Civil Rights Declaration of 1948) that states:

“The child shall have full opportunity for play and recreation, which should be directed to the same purposes as education; society and the public authorities shall endeavour to promote the enjoyment of this right.”

Despite its passage in 1959, this Declaration did not become legally binding until 1989. As a result, this particular right that guarantees free self-directed open space play would ultimately find concrete expression between the 1960's-1980’s with the emergence of junkyard playgrounds and other non-authoritarian play spaces such as adventure playgrounds. Today, due to real estate demands and increasing gentrification, the adventure playground has all but vanished in the US, though they remain popular in Europe.

Barrie’s series of leaning photos/drawings recreate the archetypal components of the historic junkyard playgrounds, such as a reclaimed sewer pipe and rope ladder. The framed photographs are installed in such a way that they convey a sense of idle transition–as if they could be picked up and moved to a different corner of the room. The exhibition title, Negative Capability, refers to a literary concept introduced by poet John Keats that is rooted in the idea that a state of idle receptivity is a means for observing the truth. The manner in which Barrie’s photographs and drawings are installed in the gallery reflect the impermanence of the playground’s components, further evoking a sense of idle transition. For the artist, the gestures conveyed in his photographs address the tension of free versus fixed play. In this case, Barrie’s reconstituted adventure playground will allow for the viewer to abandon the constraints of an existing social order; generating a platform to explore and “actively do nothing,” much like a child at play.

Kelly Barrie was born in 1973 in London, England and currently lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. Kelly Barrie received his BFA in 1996 from Hobart College, Geneva, NY, and his MFA in 1997 from the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, CA. He is a 1998 graduate of the Whitney Independent Study Program. Barrie’s photography has been exhibited at the 2008 Biennale of Sydney, Australia and the 2008 California Biennial. He’s had solo shows at Miller Durazo Fine Arts and Angstrom Gallery, Los Angeles, CA. His work has also been presented in numerous group exhibitions in various venues including Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York, NY; Queen’s Nails Projects, San Francisco, CA; Artists Space, New York, NY; and the Museo Alejandro Otero, Caracas, Venezuela. He is a recipient of the Durfee Artist Completion Grant.

Many thanks once again to Kelly Barrie for sharing his fine photos with us.

For more on Kelly Barrie check his site and ArtSlant.