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CanadaPlays, eh?

Ed’s note: Looking forward to see what priroties evolve from the IPA triennial summit. It’s a great boost for play in Canada to have Calgary hosting the event. It will help sustain recent activities and advances that have some commenting that there is a renaissance of play underway in the country. From my vantage point out in Nova Scotia’s far east this seems to be wholly possible.

It’s been a great summer of play for our family with adventurous trips spanning six provinces,with plenty of camping interspersed and enjoyment of simple pleasures and slow time in our national parks.

One of my unforgettable highlights is Pop-Up Adventure Play’s touchdown in Halifax for the kickoff of their national tour. It was wonderful to meet the play troubadours in person and get a chance to know them just a little. Halifax loved them as evidenced by the 200+ kids who came out for a loose parts pop-up on Halfax’s South Common – what a blast!!! It’s just so wonderful to see the looks on kids’s faces – animated, euphoric, full of zip and spot on in the moment. Thanks again to Suzanna, Morgan and Andy for sharing your expertise and enthusiasm with communites across the country.

I’m thinking ahead already to the next triennial gathering. I’ll be better prepared and make sure to get my application in before it sells out!

For those in Calgary – have a great conference…

Welcome to all International Play Association (IPA) delegates and participants kicking off the organization’s triennial conference in Calgary this week. It’s a brilliant idea to host the play world here in Canada during the country’s 150th anniversary. Kudos to all those who helped design an excellent program with outstanding speakers and presenters representing play traditions, practices and research from around the globe. In this post, CanadaPlays, with the help of sister blog PlayGroundology, is putting a little Canadiana in the window to help you get your bearings and have a playful time while here.

Original artwork by Kyle Jackson now hanging at Alderney Landing Library in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

National Treasures

First up, let’s share a couple of national treasures with you. Cornelia Hahn Oberlander has had children at heart all her life. She first designed public housing playgrounds in the US in the 1950s with architects Louis Kahn and Oskar Stonorov. This was shortly after being amongst the first women to graduate from Harvard as a landscape architect and prior to moving to her adopted home, in British Columbia, Canada.

In 1967, as part of Canada’s centennial celebrations, Cornelia was invited to design the playground at the Children’s Creative Centre as part of the Canadian pavilion at Expo 67. Mr. PlayGroundology was 10 at the time but sadly our family never made the trip from Toronto to Montreal for the party of parties marking our 100th birthday though I remember a lot of fun from that summer nonetheless. By all accounts the kids who were able to give the Expo 67 playscape a whirl liked it a lot.

This clip is excerpted from the National Film Board of Canada documentary, The Canadian Pavilion, Expo 67. Following Expo, Cornelia participated in the creation of national playground guidelines and designed more than 70 across the country. A few years back, she was kind enough to speak with me on the phone thanks to an introduction from the folks at space2place.

Source: Expo 67 Ccreative Children’s Centre – Canadian Centre for Architecture

Aside from sharing a wonderful bibliography with me, I remember how she emphasized simplicity remarking, and I’m paraphrasing here, that to have fun all kids really need is sand, water and something to climb… Thank you Cornelia for all your contributions not only to play in Canada but to the greening of our urban landscapes.

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Inside, Upside – Harmonic Motion, Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam installation at Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Roma, 2013. Credit – Roberto Boccaccino

From her home in Bridgetown, Nova Scotia on Canada’s east coast, Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam creates aerial textile play environments that are a riot of movement and pulsating colours. Prior to dedicating her artistic vision to designing an unparalleled play experience for kids, Toshiko exhibited her textile art at prominent galleries and museums in Japan, the US and Europe. At one point, she questioned whether there was more to life than prepping for shows and hosting vernissages. A few years ago, my then four-year-old daughter Nellie-Rose accompanied me on the first PlayGroundology road trip. We had lunch with Toshiko and her partner Charles in their home and learned how her wondrous woven webs of play are the creative fabric that warms her life.

Outside, Flipside – Harmonic Motion, Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam installation at Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Roma, 2013. Credit – Roberto Boccaccino

As Toshiko transitioned away from the art exhibition world, she spent weekends over the course of three years walking around neighbourhoods in her native Japan. This research and exploration of the where, what and how of kids’ play convinced her that there was an opportunity to introduce some new concepts rooted in textile sculpture. Toshiko’s play sculptures are found in prominent locations in Japan, including the Hakone Open-Air Museum, and a variety of Asian countries. The large scale sculptures have yet make any real headway in North America or Europe outside of exhibit spaces. Toshiko works with Norihide Imagawa, one of Japan’s foremost structural designers and engineers to ensure maximum integrity and safety of each of her play sculptures. Photos of her play sculptures have created a couple of online surges of interest in her work from the design, architecture and play communities. Let’s hope that kids in more communities around the world will have the opportunity to revel in unbridled play in one of Toshiko’s lovingly crafted creations…

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Players

There are an increasing number of organizations across the country who contribute to promoting, programming and researching about play. In no particular order here is a partial list that provides a sampling of some of the activity underway in Canada: Le lion et la souris (Montréal, QC); Active Kids Club (Toronto, ON); Integrate Play Solutions (BC); outsideplay.ca (British Columbia); Active for Life (QC); Centre for Local Research into Public Space (CELOS) and Dufferin Grove Park (Toronto, ON); Calgary Playground Review (Calgary, AB); Manitoba Nature Summit (Winnipeg, MB); The Lawson Foundation (Toronto, ON); ParticipACTION (Toronto, ON); Playground Builders (Whistler, BC); CanadaPlays (Eastern Passage, NS) And let’s not forget a shout to all those whose work supports play in their roles with municipal, provincial and federal governments and service organizations.

Click through on photo or here

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Playmakers – Designers and Builders

This a small selection of Canadian companies creating custom playscapes.

Earthscape

Carcross Commons – Tagish First Nation, Carcross, Yukon

Earthscape has developed a substantial catalogue of custom design and build playscapes that have been installed throughout the country. Each Earthscape project is unique. I’m thrilled that Halifax gave an Earthscape project the green light in 2016. The company is now exporting and has installed a super slide on New York City’s Governors Island.

Mouna Andraos and Melissa Mongiat – Daily tous les jours

A sensation in Montreal since the original 21 balançoires were introduced in the Quartier des spectacles in 2011. Every day each swing swung an average of 8,500 times. An adaptation of the original installation has been touring North American cities. A musical swings impact study is available here.

space2place

Completed in 2008, space2place’s Garden City Play Environment in Richmond, British Columbia was ahead of the curve in the context of Canadian fixed structure playgrounds. There is a great write up of this space published in The Vancouver Sun shortly after its opening.

Bienenstock

McCleary Playground downtown Toronto – 2008

Adam Bienenstock was at the front end of the natural playground surge and continues to bring his personal brand and vision to schools, communities and settings in the natural environment in Canada and beyond.

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Children’s Rights

In Montreal’s Salamander Playground atop Mount Royal Park, Québecois artist Gérard Dansereau has created a series of original tiles embedded throughout the play area to commemorate and draw attention to the Conventions on the Rights of the Child as elaborated and promoted by UNICEF. I have added the English to my favourite tile from the series below. Other tiles available to view here.

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The Poutine of Play

Poutine has gone from a well-loved, known locally only Québec delicacy to an international phenomenon. Could it be that ballon-poire will travel a similar trajectory exporting a culturally branded Québecois game around the globe? I’ve seen the game played just once and even though I have no understanding of the rules, it attracted me immediately. It is easy to see that eye – hand coordination is certainly de rigueur. The girls in the clip below are spelling out a word but I didn’t stay long enough to capture it all. There are a number of variations to the game accompanied to different call and answers as the players whump the punch bag back and forth as quickly as they can. I’m looking forward to gaining a better understanding of how the game is played some day and hopefully giving it a whirl myself.

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Cultural Institutions

Hockey

It wouldn’t be Canada without the country’s never-ending love affair with hockey. Enjoy this animated short, The Sweater, by Roch Carrier my former boss at the Canada Council for the Arts. It’s a heart warming story that revolves around one of the sport’s great rivalries between les Canadiens and the Leafs.

The National Film Board of Canada (NFB)

If you have any down time during the conference, the NFB is a great online viewing theatre with hundreds of free titles to choose from including this surprising short!

If you have any down time during the conference, the NFB is a great online viewing theatre with hundreds of free titles to choose from including this surprising short!

 

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)

For news and current affairs tune into our public broadcaster CBC. There is a great vareity of programming including a short series broadcast earlier this summer, The lost art of play.

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Best Signage Ever About Risk and Play is in Calgary!

This photo was sent to me by my cousin, an avid cyclist from the Toronto area, just over a year ago. I mistakenly thought that it was snapped on one of his rides out in the countryside but I was quickly advised of my error by readers. This sign, the most popular post on PlayGroundology Facebook with nearly 5K shares and a 645K reach, is located at Calgary’s TELUS Spark Brainasium.

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Beware the Risk of Acronyms

Many Canadians can be forgiven if they develop a sudden thirst on seeing the organization’s acronym IPA because what may be foremost in their minds is quaffing a cold one and enjoying a beloved India Pale Ale. Treat yourself to a viewing of I Am Canadian, a very popular rant/ad from 2000 starring Jeff Douglas now the co-host of one of CBC Radio’s flagship programs, As It Happens.

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The Sounds of Joy

A group of school children enjoy one of Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam’s installations in Japan. The excitement and joy are contagious. You may have to reset your quality to 480p when you play this clip on YouTube.

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Best Wishes for a Great Conference

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Snow, Ice, Motion – It’s -39 C – Keep On Moving

Quebec City's Big Chill

It’s very cold outside but there’s lots to do to keep warm and have fun on the Plains of Abraham battlegrounds – the old champs de batailles – in Quebec City for the annual Carnaval.

Click on the image above, or here for a kid’s Carnaval photo story.

Save Emdrup Adventure Playground | Love Outdoor Play

For those of us who are passionate about independent, outdoor play for kids with an accent on adventure, we owe a huge thank you for the brilliance of the Emdrup experience which continues to shine brightly in pockets here and there around the globe. If you are a lover of adventure playgrounds, add your voice to those who are campaigning to save this treasure.

“Changes by the local authority will see children segregated by age to make the playground a more traditional day care centre. Older children will be moved out. Staff and supporters are afraid this will lead to increasing restrictions in free play and risk, losing the ‘children’s democracy’ and autonomy that has characterised the site for over 70 years.”

You can support the Emdrup campaign by writing to Dorthe Rasmussen Kjær at dk@rysensteen.dk

Thanks to Tim Gill and Play England for sharing this information

Rethinking Childhood

I was lucky enough to visit Emdrup – the world’s first adventure playground –  on a study visit to Copenhagen in 2003, and I still remember its relaxed, low-tech, quietly self-assured ambience. It would be tantamount to a crime against children’s culture to stand by and see its spirit die as a result of bureaucratic whim.

Emdrup, 2003. Photo credit: Ben Spencer Emdrup, 2003. Photo credit: Ben Spencer

Please do what you can to save it. Details are in the reblogged post. You may want to highlight why it matters for children and young people of widely differing ages to be given the chance to play together. US psychologist Peter Gray has good things to say on this [pdf link].

For more on the adventure playground model and the debt it owes to Emdrup, see this 2014 Guardian article.

Hats off to Play England for sharing news of this campaign.

Please note the title of the blog post that…

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10 Ways to Build a City for Children • This City Life

A nice intro and overview from Tim on some work from Vancouver-based urbanist Jillian Glover that includes her original tumblr post. The actual doing of making cities better places for kids and families continues to be a challenge for jurisdictions around the world. Some good thoughts here – Both Tim and Jillian are always interested in ideas on this subject. Thanks Tim for the intro to Jillian’s work.

Rethinking Childhood

A snappy ten-point checklist for a child-friendly city has been pulled together by Vancouver urbanist and writer Jillian Glover. I confess I am cautious about the ‘top tips’ style of writing, which can lead to oversimplification. But this ticked a lot of my boxes.

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INFO-PLAY

Working with some new friends and old to bring more community led play to public spaces in Halifax. Tomorrow is our first event/activity. If you’re in the Halifax area, join us for Looseparts-apalooza….

Adventure Play YHZ

Hope you can join us on Sunday from 1 to 3 for a pop up loose parts play session in the green space behind the Findlay Centre – brought to you by Adventure Play YHZ.

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Is North America on the brink of a play renaissance?

It was great to have Tim Gill share some of his time and perspectives with us during his recent Canadian trip. It seems like we made a good impression based on his latest post on Rethinking Childhood. This is a theme I will be taking up at Halifax’s Emergent Learning conference this fall for my presentation – ‘Risk, Resilience and the Renaissance of Play’. Thanks Tim, we hope you’ll be back.

Rethinking Childhood

Position statement screengrabThe last few weeks have seen three major milestones in the journey towards a healthier, happier childhood for children in North America. While not directly connected, they could come to be seen a tipping point. So what are these milestones?

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One Little, Two Little, Three Canadians, We Love Thee – Who is Singing Canada’s Play People Chorus?

I pinched this ‘Four asks’ infographic from a Rethinking Childhood blog post published today by Tim Gill – it’s well worth a read. It’s brilliant that the Children’s Play Policy Forum has created a big tent for play where policy makers, researchers and practitioners from across the UK can get together to advocate and take action.

Four asks for playFour asks – for play, for health, for children, for everyone. Click to enlarge.

In the UK, non-governmental organizations – Play Scotland, Fields in Trust and London Play et al – that focus their work almost exclusively on children’s play have over the years become strong voices influencing national and local government policies. This is an important strategic difference when looking at the Canadian experience. Where is our Play Canada, Joue Québec, or Toronto Play?

It’s not that there is a lack of dedicated and fun loving Canadians who recognize and promote play. They range from educators, health care professionals, designers and landscape architects to journalists, municipal recreation leaders, parents, physical activity enthusiasts, public servants developing policy and programs and all the others who are part of the play continuum. But where are the unifying Canadian voices that focus exclusively on play and its benefits? It’s very possible that I’ve missed them and if so, I would like to get acquainted with any such groups.

Spirit of CanadaSpirit of Canada by Kyle Jackson

We Canadians wouldn’t be remiss in getting better acquainted with the best practices of other jurisdictions including the UK to see what could fly here. Never mind that, we could start sharing our own best practices related to play more broadly. In addition, a clearing house of information on children’s play research and initiatives from our various orders of government and non-governmental agencies would be a step in the right direction.

In 2017, the play world is coming to Canada’s doorstep as the City of Calgary, the International Play Association (IPA) Canada and the Alberta Parks and Recreation Association are hosting the International Play Association Conference. It will be a great opportunity for Canada to share its playbook and for Canadians to take stock of strategies that are advancing play in other parts of the world.

ConferenceInternational Play Association (IPA) Conference, City of Calgary – 2017

I just signed up with the IPA last April after meeting with the association’s President Theresa Casey. She was kind enough to take time out of her day and have a coffee with me looking out over Edinburgh’s Princes St. Gardens where on that day daffodils bobbed riotously in the wind and kids rolled down the grassy incline. What great work this IPA crowd is doing – more on them in a future installment of PlayGroundology……

DSC06497Princes St. Gardens, Edinburgh, Scotland

Do read Tim Gill’s post – Politicians told: invest in play, and children, families and communities will all see the benefits – then ask yourself, what can we do in Canada? What can be done in other countries?