Category Archives: PlayGroundology Facebook

Setting Sail for Play

Life of Pi - The PrequelShip’s Company from the Adventure Playground series. Photo credit – John Drysdale, circa 1960s. Source – Victoria and Albert Museum

Boats exude an elemental mystery. Fresh water, or briny sea they hold the promise of adventure and discovery. Whether in wavy tossed expanse or landlocked far from shore they are dream makers for voyagers young and old.

19579885394_0570494a89_k(1)Merseyside’s Black Pearl (story here), New Brighton, UK. Photo credit – Pete Birkinshaw, (CC BY 2.0)

Although I have no empirical evidence, I will hazard a guess and suggest that boats are among the top three transportation modes represented in play spaces around the world. The two others include the space class – rockets, shuttles, etc. and cars.

DSC09555Jubilee Park, Bridgetown, Nova Scotia.

Playground boats range in size from the small dory that graces the banner of the PlayGroundology FB page to the larger than life Amager Ark which is part of the Himmelhøj play artscape on Amager Island in Copenhagen

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAmager Ark – Himmelhøj, Copenhagen. Photo credit – by the artist Alfio Bonanno.

In Canada’s Magdalen Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence there is a recurring boat motif in playscapes throughout the archipelago. They are favourites with our kids whenever we visit and have a deep rooted connection to the people and the place.

DSC07548L’Étang du Nord, Cap-aux-Meules, Magdalen Islands.

Running across decks, scrambling up ropes, hiding in holds are activities for young sailors, captains, deckhands, swabs, pirates, fishermen, explorers, or warriors as they set off on an adventurous round of play.

In Halifax, PlayGroundology’s home port, we have a number of boat play spaces and even a submarine. Our iconic boat, a trawler by the name of Halcyon, was retired a few years back after more than 25 years of service in the name of fun. The video below is a short tribute to busy play days on the boat with our daughter Nellie-Rose, in her younger years, leading the charge.

Boats for Play I and Boats for Play II are flickr galleries with photos of boat playgrounds around the world. Does your community have any boat playscapes? If so, post some photos on PlayGroundology FB.

Boats are in my blood. My father and grandfather both worked in the shipyards on the River Clyde in Scotland. My grandfather was an avid model yachtsman and as I write this I look up at one of the trophies he was awarded – The Port Glasgow Model Yacht Club’s Tosh Memorial Shield which his boat the Fairy won in 1952.

As a young adult in the 1970s I had the opportunity to work on board two Canadian Coast Guard ships, an icebreaker in the Arctic and a buoy boat around Nova Scotia’s shores – quite an adventure for a lad of 16. All that to say that I do love a boat playground. You can pipe me on board anytime…

Embracing Adventure in 1970s Pointe-St-Charles, Montréal

Take one part ideals, two parts architecture students then mix with a government program for youth employment and some underutilized land in a quartier populaire and what do you get? Well, almost smack in the middle of Montréal’s international limelight decade – bookmarked by Expo 67 and the 76 Olympics – you get an adventure playground and community gardens…

Witch's Hat - MontrealGargantuan Witches Hat, Pointe-St-Charles, Montréal

In the summer of 1972, Opportunities for Youth, a Canadian federal government program, enabled 18 young people to work on two playgrounds. Located on vacant lots in Pointe-St-Charles, these play spaces were inspired by Europe’s adventure playgrounds. There had never been anything quite like them in Montréal before or since. The projects were under the overall direction of McGill University School of Architecture students, Pieter Sijpkes and Joe Carter who encouraged counsellors to take their cues from the kids.

“It’s important to keep in mind that a clean playground with brightly coloured equipment does not necessarily make for a stimulating environment for kids.”

This is a partial list of what the neighbourhood kids got up to that summer taken from the project report – Opportunities for Youth – Perspective Jeunesse: Adventure Playgrounds – Green Thumbs, Sore Thumbs (a good read with plenty of images).

What they did for the summer

These activities fall squarely within the adventure playground canon and photos in the report (some reproduced here) show kids building, creating, experimenting – having the time of their lives.

CastleBuilding the castle

Sijpkes and Carter started from scratch with derelict, vacant lots and sourced a lot of their raw, play material from Montréal companies in the form of donations. They were aware that the European adeventure playgrounds owed much of their success to the presence of capable playworkers – plug here for Penny Wilson and the Alliance for Childhood’s Playwork Primer

JumbleIt’s all a jumble

“We discovered that kids love to build but that they love to to tear things apart just as much.”

DumpPlay zone

“We quickly came to the conclusion that this type of playground and a junk yard looked dangerously alike.”

The playgrounds were not runaway best sellers right out of the gate. Prior to and during the project itself, there was limited opportunity to engage with community parents and elders. For the first month, kids were not beating a path to either one of the playgrounds. Parties became the saving grace. They got the the kids flockin’ and the spaces rockin’.

PartySpaghetti Party Poster

“A playground of this kind only becomes an attractive place to go to when there is continuous activity – fires burning, water splashing, the sound of hammering, seeing colour, movement, people, friends.”

Forty years later, there are no adventure playgrounds in Canada to my knowledge. Readers please correct me if I’m wrong. In the UK, Germany, Scandinavia and Australia, they continue to be important kid spaces – fun fueled community assets – though some are facing funding squeezes from local authorities.

In the US, a few adventure playgrounds, such as the one located in Berkeley, California, are still in operation. Currently, there is a resurgence of interest in adventure playgrounds in the US related partially to discussions around risk and play. This interest has been reflected in the media through articles like Hanna Rosin’s The Overprotected Kid in The Atlantic and Erin Davis’ new documentary film, The Land that explores play, risk and hazard at an adventure playground in Plas Madoc, Wales.

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Isn’t it time that our children had this much fun, learned self-reliance, experienced risk and embraced lasting friendships based on the adventure of play? Are there any adventurous neighbourhoods, or communities in Canada stepping up and embracing the adventure? I would love to hear news of any adventure playground type activity already underway, being developed, or contemplated.

PulleyHome-made zip line

Many thanks to Pieter Sijpkes who got back in touch with me when I contacted him after reading a story in the Montreal Gazette that referenced his 1972, Pointe-St-Charles Summer of Play. Sijpkes and Carter’s willingness to try something new sure helped make a lot of kids happy.

Happy FacesSmiling faces

Here is part of what Pieter Sijpkes wrote to me in his reply.

I’m glad you stumbled on the little piece about the playgrounds we did in the early seventies. It seems society is moving in peristaltic movements .. about 30 or 40 years apart… your blog is what we had in mind in 1972… but the digital world was not born yet…

Across the decades, at interweb velocity perhaps this Pointe-St-Charles story will help to inspire new adventure playground stirrings in Canada.

Happy New Year – Play a Plenty in 2015

Happy New Year from PlayGroundology.

That’s me with the glasses and the big smile, hot off the presses today, as seen and lovingly portrayed by our five-year-old Lila-Jeanne. It’s a pretty good likeness too but I think we’d be safe swapping the dimensions of the head and torso…

Me by LilaPapa by Lila-Jeanne

That’s Lila swinging away in the vid back in the day when she was a wee babe of 9 months. It was shortly after she was born that I started down the PlayGroundology road. I was home at the time on parental leave. Hanging together for 9 months is one of the greatest gifts our little family has ever experienced.

Nearly five years later, PlayGroundology is a journey that’s still fresh. It seems that there is always something to discover in the world of play whether it’s old and overlooked, or new and untried.

Although I’ve been writing less often the past year, my interest remains constant. With the help of some others, I’ve branched out to create play events in the broader community. The contact high from watching the kids at these events is a powerful reminder of the natural zing that’s buzzing through the air when kids, permission and creative play intersect. Plans are now getting underway for next spring, summer and fall.

Thanks for subscribing, for reading, for your comments. I hope you’ll travel with us this year as we continue our passion play. Drop us a line, we’re always interested in your stories.

Check our companion sites on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, flickr, Storehouse.

Get the kids outside, give them some space and let them go…..

Come Visit The PlayGroundology FB Gallery

There is much art in the creation of vibrant public play spaces. Their aesthetic, their physicality and their spatial rendering push mind and body to new imaginative experiences. This presents a great opportunity for virtual galleries like PlayGroundology FB to curate news, design, research, advocacy and trends.

FB 1599Click to enlarge

After a couple of years of experimentation, I’ve found the pace that I think I can maintain. Each weekday two new posts are added to the gallery which is purposefully light on words and heavy on visuals. For those looking for story, words can frequently be found via bitly click throughs in the accompanying text.

Each day is a discovery of what is new in the realm of outdoor play and what is informing and inspiring playscapes in a variety of countries around the world. In the past year, growth in page likes has gone from just under 400 to just over 1600 with a very high retention factor. If you haven’t stopped by, please do and invite your friends along also. You’ll come across some interesting fare.

space2placeClick to enlarge

When I show my kids photos and short video clips of some of these one of a kind playscapes, they are invariably in awe. I usually get two questions immediately, “can we go there?” followed by “why don’t they have any playgrounds like that here?” They’re both great questions particularly the latter. I don’t have any answers to that question yet for the community I live in but I’m working on it.

DriftwoodClick to enlarge

Material is sourced from mainstream media, specialty online publications, academic journals, original posts in the PlayGroundology blog, twitter, flickr, blogs, other FB pages, online national archive collections for those photos from yesteryear and anywhere else I can poke my inquisitive nose around. A big thank you to all those who created the original content. I do my best to cite and recognize sources and where possible link to them.

Favela RioClick to enlarge

On occasion posts in the PlayGroundology FB Gallery turn into blog posts. One of those is starting to brew right now. Back in November I posted a photo of a play space in a Rio neigbourhood. For me there is an undercurrent of strength in this image that speaks to the power and promise of play. Just a couple of days ago, reader and play pioneer, Richard Garcia posted on PlayGroundology FB that he was in Rio at the playground in question. He has met with people in the community, taken more pictures and we’re now trying to connect to talk about this place of play.

I am continually surprised by the creativity, beauty and originality of the work I encounter trekking across the interweb in the quiet, expectant hours of early morning and the sometimes weary arc of night. Last week, from out of the blue a Polish designer and artisan popped up sending PlayGroundology FB a message about his work. Turns out that Barnaba Wójtowicz-Szczotka makes incredible bespoke playground equipment and accessories.

ArtefaktyClick to enlarge

It’s the exchange and participation of others engaged and involved in the design and creation of public play spaces that makes curating PlayGroundology FB so enjoyable. Their posts and comments build on what I’ve been able to find. A great example is a video posted in the comment section earlier this week by Davies White Landscape Architect. The video provides a tour of the almost completed Dinton Pastures Country Park in England. Sit back and enjoy.

Occasionally, a post gets liked and shared at a rapid rate and really takes off. I have not really been able to determine what it is that makes these posts move as they do but in some way they catch the readers’ imagination. With 300 plus shares, 100 likes and over 52,000 views, the photo below outstrips anything that has been posted to date by a long shot.

52K

If you are already a regular PlayGroundology FB visitor thanks for dropping by. If you haven’t yet had the chance, please check us out. The gallery is open 24/7, is updated 5 times a week and a lifetime membership is free. As an added bonus check Playgroundology FB’s likes for more great play related content on facebook.

Help Choose New Canada Day PlayGroundology FB Cover Photo

If ever there was a day in Canada made for play, this is it. July 1 is Canada Day, a civic holiday celebrating our nationhood and the real beginning of the oh so short summer season. Here’s a shocking stat, only 5% of Canadian kids between the ages of 5 and 17 years old are getting the recommended levels of daily physical activity (Source: Active Healthy Kids Canada). So don’t waste any time, be active, get outside and play.

Just before you do though, could you nip over to PlayGroundology FB and ‘like’ your favourite image from 1 of the 3 below. The image with the most likes at the end of the day will become the new cover photo.

Haven’t been to PlayGroundology FB? Click through and ‘like’ us and you’ll get a couple of new images and stories every day of the week, except Saturday and the occasional holiday, curated from sources around the world.

PlayGroundology FB - July 1

Join play lovers and advocates from Australia, North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa on PlayGroundology’s Facebook channel for great visuals and news you can use from the global playground.

Drum roll please. Here are the 3 images to choose from from for the next PlayGroundology FB cover photo.

DSC02867Salamander Playground, Mount Royal Park, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

DSC09555Playground with Dory, Bridgetown, Nova Scotia, Canada

expo-67-iiChildren’s playspace, Canadian Pavilion. Expo 67, Montreal, Quebec, Canada – Designer – Cornelia Oberlander

Happy Canada Day from Halifax, Nova Scotia.

DSC07403From the decks of The Halcyon overlooking Halifax Harbour