Category Archives: playworker

Pop-Ups On The Road 2014

Itinerant playmakers and PlayGroundology friends Pop-Up Adventure Play are on the road in a big way this year. PlayGroundology asked Suzanna Law if she could contribute a guest post to share some of her thoughts and experiences about the group’s recently concluded US tour. We’re happy she took us up on the offer. Stay tuned for future tour dates, perhaps you can organize to have them come to a community near you. I know we’ll be looking for an opportunity to bring them to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Exactly two months and eleven days ago, I was a ball of anxiety. I was in a snow storm with my colleague Anna and her two children battling our way to Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA to meet Morgan, our other colleague. As the car fought its way through the thick blanket of snow, I started to wonder if a two-month tour of the USA was a good idea.

This then triggered a whole wave of other thoughts: Will the hosts be ready for us? Would the little yellow car we chose be able to complete the journey? Are we really ready for this? But really, my biggest question was this: Was I going to make it to the first stop of the tour? Turns out I had nothing to worry about. Two months and six days on, after “sleeping for a thousand hours” (as Morgan put it) the tour is complete and I am ready to reflect on my adventure. And wow, was it incredible.

PopUp1Here is our little yellow car! It traveled through 28 States and did around 11,000 miles!

Let’s talk about some details first. Ever since Pop-Up Adventure Play was formed about 3 years ago, we have been invited to communities across the world but primarily in the USA. People have been wanting to find out more about playwork and to find out how they can bring more playful opportunities into their own homes. Above all, they wanted some people who have worked in the field before to come into their community to tell everyone that play is a good idea.

The biggest barrier to our visits has been the cost of travel which isn’t always an enormous amount, but is a stumbling block for many. Having mulled over this for a while, we decided to organise a tour! This would reduce travel costs as we’d already be on the road, and we would also be able to go where we would be invited. And that’s how we began the Pop-Up Adventure Play and Special Guests Tour 2014!

PopUp2Cardboard Sledding at Bernheim Arboretum in Kentucky

As the Tour Organizer, I had a personal aim of getting 7 locations on the tour. In my mind, it would be a success if I had one event every weekend. Morgan and I would form the core tour team and we would bring in our friends to be part of the tour. Using a combination of social media and reaching out to some of our existing contacts, we started the tour with 14 confirmed locations. Two weeks into the tour, we had somehow booked another 2 stops on the tour and had reached our limit: Pop-Ups Tour 2014 would be a 16 stop tour. I still can’t believe it.

PopUp3Chasing the robot at Manhattan Beach, CA

Oh goodness, and how could I not talk about our Special Guests? Grant Lambie, Andy Hinchcliffe and Erin Davis joined us for parts of the tour, bringing their expertise to communities who asked for a little extra; who wanted knowledge and experience that we didn’t have. They truly brought an extra spark to the tour, supporting us with their know-how, encouragement and car care.

Some really stand out moments of the trip have been with hosts at their locations. They have been absolutely amazing and inspirational, standing on the frontline of what feels like an American Adventure Play movement. They are brave and bold, and determined to create a playful, adventure-filled future for their children and for the communities in which their children live, all the while working within a society that isn’t all too familiar with play for it’s own sake. I have been blown away by their passion for play.

PopUp4Adventure Playground at the Parish School in Houston, TX

PopUp5An incredible place to play in Cary, NC

It may have been hard work driving a tiny yellow car across the US and stopping mostly to deliver workshops, run Pop-Up Adventure Playgrounds and to sleep, but it was totally worth the journey. Anxiety and tiredness aside, the Pop-Up Adventure Play and Special Guests Tour 2014 was a complete success. I’m so chuffed (British for “really pleased”) about this whole thing which you can read more about on our blog and am proud to announce that we’ll be doing this all again in 2015! If you want to be part of our next adventure, please email me on

PopUp6Bouncing off the inflatable loose parts in Portland, OR

Back to School with Pop-up Adventure Play

While my kids are on summer break, I’m getting ready to hit the books after a couple of decades at recess. There’s no doubt that I’ll have to cut back on my lollygagging and skylarking but I’m confident that the sacrifice will pay huge dividends. The last time I felt like this was 25 years ago when I enrolled in an International Development Studies program. This time at bats it’s going to be all about play.

Wait, maybe lollygagging, skylarking and a little self-directed tomfoolery will end up being part of the curriculum. There’s sure to be some heavy lifting too. I’ll be swotting about theory, wrestling with assignments focused on practical applications and learning about the tradition of playwork as pioneered, developed and practiced in the UK.

Playworker course

This is heady stuff for me and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Over the past four years I’ve been acquiring a layperson’s perspective on the fascinating world of play. My initial entry point was hanging out with my kids and visiting playgrounds in our local community of Halifax, Nova Scotia. We mapped the playgrounds, took lots of photos and did little write ups that we shared online.

Shortly after getting the Halifax Plays project up and running, I started finding great people all over the world – designers, sculptors, architects, social enterprise leaders, academics, landscape architects, psychologists – all focused on enabling quality play experiences for kids. The wonderweb was working its magic and before I knew it, PlayGroundology was born.

My interest in play continues to grow. This Playworker Development Course by Pop-up Adventure Play is providing me with the opportunity to deepen my knowledge and learn from respected practitioners and peers. I hope too that it will provide me with tools to help make the transition from author/blogger to active local participant in the development and implementation of play strategies and happenings at the community level.

robot kidsRobot photo – taken at a Block Party Pop-Up Adventure Playground in Fairport, NY

Back in my more youthful days I was frequently a reluctant student. It resulted in me spending an additional year in the classroom before I could graduate. Way back then, I loved to hear Alice’s power chords torquing the teen anthem, School’s Out and dream about the summer fun ahead.

I’m pinching myself now and reviewing my email correspondence to ensure that this is all actually taking place. Well it is and many thanks to the Pop-up Adventure Play team for making it all possible. I’m coming full circle in a way back to my educational roots in the UK. I started my scholarly career at the age of 5 at Larkfield Primary School in Greenock, Scotland. I was the wee Canadian boy who couldn’t stand the winter cold in shorts and had to get special dispensation to wear long pants.

I will be writing here occasionally about the course and will be happy to share my perspectives with anyone who’s interested.

Well Alice, I gotta tell you, school’s in and it’s looking like an awesome session.