Category Archives: pop-up adventure play

The Greatest Show

There is a whisper of warm in the air this fine Montreal day. It’s not hot though by any stretch. A grimy, grey urban snow is stubbornly hanging on over much of the grass and scrub land.

Next to a rail line, in the shadow of the Van Horne overpass, two kids play in a narrow strip of what was once underutilized, neglected space. It’s now part of a regreening that embraces this Mile End neighbourhood – marshalling land and engaging community participation to help preserve and expand nature’s footprint.

The kids, members of the Le Lion et La Souris family, are immersed in a pas de deux. It’s a timeless dance where mud and melt water are the sacraments. The two lads are so engrossed in this organic world of their own making that my arrival barely registers a passing notice.

As the boys stir up foul looking concoctions and pour potions into vessels and through the slats of a pallet, they open a window and let me in. The kids and I check each other out by goofing around with some spontaneous sound and word games.

Over the next 45 minutes, I marvel at their ingenuity and the consonance between do-it-yourself resourcefulness and budding resilience. It seems they are impervious to the wet and cold. They elevate scrabbling in puddles to a vocation, no, even more than that, to an art form.

“By giving children the space and time to play as they want — with each other, alone, in nature, with loose parts or found materials — Le Lion et La Souris is saying to children: you matter, what you like matters, how you play matters.”

Stephanie Watt – City Councillor for Rosemont La Petite-Patrie

 

In this minimalist setting the lads are attuned to each other’s company. They need little to inspire their colourful tapestry of play. With the exception of the occasional glance our way, they are self-sufficient in the moment, oblivious to the nattering adults.

Eventually the boys break away from the pallets and puddles opting for more vigorous shenanigans. Sticks are found and brandished about. There’s not a poked out eye to be seen, anywhere.

Running ensues in speeding bursts to hide, to get away. The tagged shipping container offers a great rope swinging escape route from marauding zombies. Then it’s an almost seamless transition into some mild rough and tumble, the older boy taking care not to overwhelm his younger friend.

This is my first visit to Le Lion et La Souris and I am amazed at this tour de force, this panorama of play. Now I’ve known about the community-based non profit for a few years. Last summer we both hosted our mutual friends – Pop-Up Adventure Play on their cross-Canada tour – presenting workshops and loose parts play extravaganzas in Montreal and Halifax.

“Children who get to be at the heart of their play learn to know themselves, to negotiate, to create, to evaluate and take risks, to play different roles, to work through emotions and challenges. For me, L&M makes our city more resilient and inclusive.”

Stephanie Watt – City Councillor for Rosemont La Petite-Patrie

 

It’s good to connect and learn how the small team at Le Lion et La Souris is evolving and making an impact. As I speak with playworker Gabby Doiron, she tells me how she had been invited to another Montreal neighbourhood, Pointe-Saint-Charles,  the previous evening. A group of mothers interested in establishing an adventure playground were looking for some information and inspiration. Forty years earlier a short-lived adventure playground had been a going concern in the community and these moms are hoping to bring a new one to life.

Those Pointe-Saint-Charles parents and others across the country are eager to see kids getting their play on, experiencing a wider range of play opportunities in public spaces. This is a conversation that is gaining steam at the grass roots level as well as within the mainstream media – witness recent articles in Maclean’s, Le Devoir and The Canadian Press.

Gabby is fully engaged in helping others others explore independent, child-led play. She’s moved from the academic realm, researching a Master’s degree focused on Cornelia Hahn Oberlander’s Expo 67 playground to playworking at the aptly named Champs des possibles in Mile End on Montreal’s Plateau. She loves the kids and the community-based model but stitching a budget together is always challenging.

The kids started breaking the ice. It was like a tiny pond. We started calling it The Lake because it got quite big and it was very deep…

Gabby Doiron – Playworker, Le Lion et La Souris

 

Here on this small strip of land, the possibilities for play run very deep. To explore, to be dirty, to fall, to hide, to swing, to run, to risk a tumble, to have some fun these are boundless wonders. Surely this is the greatest show and Le Lion et La Souris are exporting it to other parts of the city, to schools, parks, community groups, even to the Canadian Centre of Architecture.

Le Lion et La Souris continues to reach out and make connections. This summer they will host a course with the Forest School of Canada. Other communities can perhaps benefit from their go local, embrace global model.

This grass roots playwork is supplemented by a growing body of research in Canada on a variety of topics: risk and play – Mariana Brussoni; outdoor play – Beverlie Dietze and Diane Kashin; loose parts play – Caileigh Flannigan; and. unhealthy food – Sara FL Kirk. Supported by their institutions, governments and charitable organizations such as The Lawson Foundation this research is helping to define policy goals and influence a renewed understanding of play opportunities for kids in public spaces.

Walking away from the Champs des possibles I am rejuvenated. I’ve caught a buzz being up close to all that unfettered, unrehearsed play. I’m energized as I head north to Le Diola on Jean-Talon for a fine Senegalese meal with one of my oldest friends. Play on…

Now, last word to the kids.

 

 

 

 

 

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Pop-Up Play Photo Splash – An Even Dozen

In late July, the Pop-Up Adventure Play crew kicked off their cross-Canada tour in Halifax hosted by CanadaPlays and PlayGroundology. It was a blast – three events in two days culminating in a pop-up play extravaganza on the Halifax South Common. We estimate that more than 200 kids showed up over the course of the 2.5 hour event.

This post is less words, more pics. So here’s the even dozen generously shot by my photographer daughter Alexa. You can check her on instagram here at seriouslyalexa. She has been tagged by enRoute magazine as one of the top 10 Instagrammers in Canada to keep your eye on. Thanks Alexa!

Houston, this is Halifax – we’re ready for blast off

 

Halifax’s Hyde Park Corner – free speech, free play…

 

DIY spool ‘n beam teeter-totter

 

Up

 

and over…

 

We’ll go this way and that way

 

Flintstones on Safari

 

Hold on a sec lads, let’s consult the plans

 

Looking good – finishing touches

 

Knight in Shining Armour

 

Playing outside of the box

 

A fine afternoon that brought out the child in all of us…

 

Thanks again Alexa and a shout out to Robert Smith Sr. for hanging out for the day and giving us a big hand with the clean-up. He started his play days in earnest back in the 1930s. Along with our mom Helen, he gave his two boys free rein to explore, discover and experience risk…

A huge nod, let’s put their names up on a neon marquee, to Suzanna, Morgan and Andy the international troubadors from Pop-Up Adventure Play who helped to bring us all together.

Finally thanks to all those who made the public talk at Halifax Central Library, the workshop at The Pavilion and the Halifax South Common pop-up possible. It takes a village…

​Boxes – MEC, Canadian Tire (Dartmouth Crossing and Cole Harbour), Leon’s, Giant Bicycle and Sportchek

Bric à brac – OC Automotive, Kent Building Supplies, Halifax Plays and Bike Again – what a great bunch of volunters there – if you like biking, check out their Facebook page

Family bloggers and purveyors of fun – urbanparent.ca, itsy bitsy haligonians and Family Fun Halifax and assemblage who have helped spread the word.

Global Halifax and the Community Herald who did stories and all the other media outlets who have given us a hand by printing or broadcasting public service announcements about the events.

Thanks also to the team of volunteers who worked on this event – Bridget, Caileigh, Maura, Niki, Shitangshu, Tanya.

I have to thank my wife and kids too for putting up with my early mornings and late nights over a couple of months. They have been very kind.

Last, but by no means least, thanks to the Province of Nova Scotia’s Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage who have provided financial assistance to help defray costs, as well as equipment and networking to spread news about the events. Halifax Recreation has been invaluable in providing advice, donating some space and encouraging volunteers. Halifax Public Libraries has given us this space for today’s public talk in Paul O’Regan Hall and promoted the event. Enterprise Rent-A-Car has provided a cargo van at no cost so our loose parts schlepping could proceed with greater dispatch.

Thank you also to all the kids who came and played, smiled, laughed, jumped, ran. On that day with all of you, the Halifax South Common was the most marvelous place to be in the entire world  ….

 

Getting out the Vote for the LA Renaissance of Play

If you love adventure, believe that risk in play is an important component of growing up and that independence to explore is the foundation of creative and critical thinking then please get out and vote for Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play as part of LA2050.

Voting opened October 18 and closes on October 25. Don’t miss your chance to vote for and support the Renaissance of Play in LA. You can get more information on the submission and VOTE HERE – see right hand column of page.

NOTE – In order to vote in the 2016 My LA2050 Grants Challenge, participants must register for a free account and sign in. Use either social sign-in via Facebook or Google or an email account to register. Users will be emailed a link to click in order to validate the address.

It’s PAINLESS, using FB it took me less than 1 minute to cast my vote.

After you’ve voted and joined the Renaissance, pop on over to Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play to see what else is new. While you’re at it, why not share with others that you’ve exercised your civic duty to the world of play by posting this lovely “I Voted” graphic on one or more of your social media channels…

i-voted

Get out the Vote for Play, Adventure, Kids.

California Dreamin’

campference-logos

There’s a great play event coming to Southern California from February 16 through 19, 2017. Don’t dream about it, escape from grey sky winter days and experience a new adventure playground in development. This ‘campference’ is brought to you by the globe trotting good folks at Pop-Up Adventure Play and Val Verde’s Santa Clarita Adventure Play who will be welcoming participants to Eureka Villa.

The Campference will headline Professor Fraser Brown, Head of Playwork at Leeds Beckett University’s School of Health & Community Studies, Erin Davis, Director of the documentary The Land, and Jill Wood, founder of “AP” adventure playground in Houston, Texas.

Campference programming will also include a variety of hands on workshops, keynote Q&As, a screening of The Land, discussions and activities surrounding playwork theory and practice with National and International playworkers, and more.

Pop­-Up Adventure Play was founded in 2010 by Suzanna Law and Morgan Leichter­Saxby and aims to help make a children’s right to play a reality in every neighborhood by disseminating playwork principles to a range of audiences. Operating primarily in the US and UK, they provide long­ distance and in ­person support to play advocates in seventeen countries and recently completed a world lecture tour.

Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play was founded by Jeremiah Dockray and Erica Larsen­Dockray in 2014 after Jeremiah began the playwork course. While working on a course assignment he came across an abandoned 2 acre park which is now the developing home of Eureka Villa Adventure Playground. It will be the only adventure playground in Los Angeles County.

Get your tent, sleeping bag and campfire stories ready for a Santa Clarita Valley Adventure this February. Early bird discount registration closes October 2. Last chance to register is January 16. Registration details here.

Oh and did I mention that Suzanna and Morgan (the dynamic duo co-founders of Pop-Up Adventure Play) have penned their own book and most recently

suzanna

co-published, with Australian friends Playground Ideas, Loose Parts Manual. You can get your free copy here.

PS – remember to bring marshmallows…..

Hearts of Play Go Global

Well PlayGroundology readers where do we see ourselves on the naughty or nice scale as we enter the Christmas season? I know that I’ve had a few questionable behaviours over the course of the year that may be getting looked at askance by that red-suited, twinkly-eyed, cookie-snacking guy…

Hearts of Play ReduxPhoto source – Leland Francisco. License – (CC BY 2.0)

In the hopes of spreading some good cheer and making up for my transgressions, I’m dusting off and sharing an updated version of the Haiku deck, Hearts of Play, that I put together a couple of years ago

The act of freely giving time, money, or goods, is always a sure fire means of enhancing one’s niceness stock regardless of faith origins. I hope that the Hearts of Play Haiku deck will encourage readers to consider giving a gift in support of kids and play. Think of it as one love, one heart, one play….

Without further ado, five groups doing great work in communities around the world. Nota – none of the five groups are aware of this post.

Playground Ideas

Playground Ideas II PlaygroundIDEAS. Photo source – PlaygroundIDEAS

Playground Ideas is a not-for-profit organization that designs and builds play spaces for the world’s most disadvantaged children. They support communities to create play spaces where there are none. Their open source designs and collaborative approach empower communities to create public play opportunities that invites local engagement. Their passion for play has taken them to Africa, Asia, South and North America, New Guinea and beyond. Founder Marcus Veerman recently presented at TEDxMelbourne.

Facebook
@playgroundideas
Web

East Africa Playgrounds

East AfricaEast Africa Playgrounds. Photo source – East Africa Playgrounds

East African Playgrounds is a Registered Charity in England and Wales (1129244) that aims to change the lives of children across East Africa by developing children’s learning opportunities and environments. We work alongside local communities to build simulating and exciting playgrounds, run arts and games programs as well as developing long term employment and training opportunities for young people across East Africa.

Facebook
@EastAfricanPlay
Web

Pop-Up Adventure Play

Pop UpPop-Up Adventure Play. Photo source – Pop-Up Adventure Play

Pop-Up Adventure Play imagines a time when all children have access to child-directed play in communities of supportive adults. Their work is grounded in a Pop-Up Adventure Playground model providing children of all ages and abilities with opportunities to recognize, explore, and express their natural play instincts… on their own terms. Pop-Up Adventure Play is a registered charity in the UK (#1148987). Since this deck was originally posted, this dynamic team has criss-crossed the USA, done a world tour and written a book

Facebook
@popupplay
Web

Playground Builders

Mak Play Not WarPlayground Builders. Photo source – Playground Builders

Playground Builders creates playgrounds for children in war-torn areas. There is often no safe place for children in these communities to play. Most have never experienced the joy of a swing or the thrill of a slide. We at Playground Builders are dedicated to building hope and peace through the gift of play. Playground Builders is a registered Canadian charity: #852810019RR0001.

Facebook
@PlayGrndBuilder
Web

Empower Playgrounds Inc.

Light up the NightEmpower Playgrounds Inc.. Photo source – empower playgrounds

Empower Playgrounds Inc. enhances educational opportunities for children in Ghanaian villages by providing renewable energy through electricity-generating playground equipment, smart LED lanterns and hands-on science kits. Empower Playgrounds is a nonprofit, tax-exempt registered 501(c)3 registered in the USA. In October of this year, the group released Lighting the Night: Mirabell’s Story available for viewing on Vimeo here.

Facebook
@playlightlearn
Web

While writing this post, I received the following from the Pop-Up Adventure Play crew, a little pre-Christmas serendipity.

Pop-up tweet

The original Hearts of Play Haiku deck can be found here. Happy giving from PlayGroundology….

It’s A Great Play Weekend in Ithaca, New York

Have you heard about the Ithaca Children’s Garden 2nd Annual Play Symposium on today and tomorrow (October 2 and 3)? If you’re in the neighbourhood, don’t miss it. It’s a movement of play people!

Ithaca's Day of Play Poster smaller copy
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It’s a bit out of our reach for a weekend drive (3,200 kilometres return) or we’d be there. Wouldn’t miss this evening’s screening of Erin Davis’ The Land.

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I’d be in the front row for PlayGroundology friend Jill Wood’s presentation on The Parish School’s Adventure Playground in Houston, Texas


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And then of course there are the Pop-Up Players extraordinaire Suzanna and Morgan. I would love to wish them bon voyage in person as they kick off their 2015 world play tour – first stop Ithaca, New York and then on to Costa Rica and points beyond.

Postcard 4 CR
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Wishing organizers, presenters, participants and of course the players a great conference weekend. PlayGroundology and Adventure PlayGround YHZ are there in spirit…

Ithaca Children's GardenIthaca Children’s Garden

Movement of Play People

Play shines a little brighter today as the Pop-Up Adventure Play team continues to shape its luminous dream. Since 2011, Morgan Leichter-Saxby and Suzanna Law have been bundling their passion, knowledge, love of kids and playwork into irresistible shared pop-up experiences in locations around the globe.

Loose parts rodeo - Parish SchoolLoose Parts Rodeo, Parish School, Houston, Texas

The New Adventure Playground Movement: How Communities Across the USA Are Returning Risk and Freedom to Childhood chronicles their whirlwind 2014 USA tour. Ten states, a shoestring budget, 10,000 plus compact-car-fuelled miles on a coast-to-coast odyssey that – insert drum roll here please – had over 2,000 participants come out to play.

Pop-Up Adventure Play
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The book is a great primer for those on the lookout for affordable, alternative, community building play opportunities. I suspect Suzanna and Morgan are secretly embarked on a plot of world domination and this is their introductory manifesto. With any luck, there will be more to come.

Their point of departure is quite straightforward.

We believe that every child knows how to play, and needs only time, space, opportunity and maybe a little support in order to do so. Climbing trees, making box forts, loitering in hammocks – these are the experiences every child needs and deserves.

The reader is introduced to key people and movements that influence the authors’ outlooks on play, children and the supportive roles of adults. This includes a quick sketch on adventure playgrounds where John Bertelesen, the first staff person at the original adventure playground founded in Emdrup, Denmark in 1943, is quoted.

I consider it most important that the leader not appear too clever but that he remain at the same experimental stage as the children. In this way the initiative is left, to a great extent, with the children themselves and it is thus far easier to avoid serious intrusion into their fantasy world.

And there’s the rub, how do we as adults do our best for kids in play environments? As students of playwork (both authors are pursuing doctoral programs in the subject), supplemented with on the ground experience in a variety of settings, Suzanna and Morgan share their perspectives on this very question in a practical way. It’s about giving kids space, supporting discovery, curiosity and exploration without dominating or directing what’s going on.

OpenBook1The book is full of images from their cross-country trek providing a visual inventory of loose parts materials

The story focuses on their visits with play enthusiasts and advocates across the USA who hosted workshops and pop-up play events and in many instances opened their homes to our erstwhile playworkers turned authors. Readers meet Jill Wood from the Parish School in Houston, Texas, Erin Marteal from Ithaca New York’s Hands-on-Nature Anarchy Zone and Craig Langlois from Pittsfield, Massachussets’ Berkshire Museum.

Left to their own devices, kids will take an unscripted, organic, meandering journey along the path of play. At pop-up play events overflowing with loose parts, there’s a natural mystic blowing through the air. The atmosphere is charged with squeals of delight and eureka moments as the creative and sometimes anarchic machinations of kids at play lets loose. This kind of play, invaluable in and of itself, has broader reverberations as the authors point out.

Children playing outside are both the symptom and catalyst of a healthy society: their presence in public space demonstrates community networks while strengthening them.

There are plenty of gems in this compact volume including fun-filled and informative photos, personal stories, useful resources, playwork principles and references. The New Adventure Playground Movement: How Communities Across the USA Are Returning Risk and Freedom to Childhood is a manual, a roadmap and a gentle manifesto all rolled into one. The book is available in many bookstores but can also be purchased directly from the authors which will provide them with a little more zip for their ongoing activities which include – surprise, surprise Pop-Ups World Tour 2015.

Postcard 4 CRGet ready it’s #PopUpsWorldTour2015

Editor’s note – Suzanna has been very helpful to me over the years and did some excellent skype assisted hand-holding as we prepared for a loose parts event in Halifax last fall. I can attest that the Pop-Up Adventure Play course is full of excellent content and is creating a growing network of play people who are moving it for the kids. The kids had a blast at our loose parts play extravaganza and it was absolutely exhilarating for the the adults who helped pull it together.

Run Jump BuildClick here or on this pic to link to a photo riff of the Halifax loose parts event.

I’m forecasting intermittent, meteoric pop-up showers in the play world. This book by Morgan and Suzanna, pop-uppers extraordinaire, will be a great help to communities who want to explore the magical radiance of play.

I hope that during a future play tour Morgan and Suzanna will drop into Nova Scotia and share their spark. After all, we’re Canada’s Ocean Playground…