Tag Archives: PlayGroundology

Breathtaking Playground Mountains

It’s a words light post this week. This shot from Mont Pélerin just above the town of Vevey, Switzerland is posted in honour of the winter olympians.

Thanks to Alex Osterwalder for this great shot that he calls Paradise Playground. It’s a playground he frequented with his family when he lived in Vevey.

For more from Alex, check out his Business Innovation website, or his Flickr photostream

I’m always on the lookout for spectacular shots to share so drop me a line if you have some.

The Paradise Playground image was originally posted to Flickr by Alex Osterwalder at http://flickr.com/photos/67526850@N00/152697503. It was reviewed on 22:39, 28 January 2009 (UTC) by the FlickreviewR robot and confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-sa-2.0.

Playgrounds in the News

My geek factor is in the ascendant. As a budding playgroundologist I root around tracking down interesting tidbits about playgrounds – people, places, ideas, events and happenings. It’s a challenge to sate my curiosity.

Playgrounds are not driving the news agenda but they are registering blips here and there. Subscriptions to web based news alerts occasionally turn up jewels. Some stories resonate longer than others because they’re imbued with humour, or hope. Others have legs because they report on ingenuity, controversy, or tragedy. From time to time, PlayGroundology will post a selection of these stories for your reading/viewing pleasure.

Pigs on the Loose

Readers may be tempted to say in a pig’s eye about this first offering. Local media captured visual proof of, well not flying pigs, but marauding porcines, toughs who closed down a school playground in Stokesdale, North Carolina.


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Seems like five pigs with a pack mentality were on the loose and whooping it up in this small agricultural community last fall. There was plenty of excitement for the kids at Stokesdale Elementary as they watched the porkers grunting and gallivanting around the property.

The pigs on the loose scenario was a first for Principal Amy Koonce. Kids at the school were kept indoors while the porkers, snouts in exploratory mode, had the run of the playground and surrounding area. WGHP TV’s Nicole Ferguson was there to record the freedom foraging for posterity – roll video.

Playgroundology contacted Nicole, now at WTVF in Nashville, Tennessee, to get her take on the playground pigs. “The pigs just had so much personality. They came right out of the woods to greet us. There they were all at once in a little pack sniffing around, right at our feet. It’s like they knew we weren’t there to capture them.”

Nicole and her crew got the assignment because one of their scheduled stories for the evening fell through. The playground pigs resonated with the viewing public generating lots of traffic on the station website. The day after the story’s initial broadcast, Nicole was at home packing for her move to Nashville. She heard ‘pigs’ and ‘North Carolina’ coming from the TV and then CNN anchor Tony Harris laughing away. CNN had picked up the story and were looping it every hour. It was all in a day’s work for Nicole. “It was hilarious. We couldn’t stop laughing when we were out there.”

There have been no further headlines for these fateful pigs since those heady days in September. It seems, for now at least, their playground days are done. Perhaps they’re busy with more predictable fare – heading to market, outsmarting wolves, or being best friends to the likes of Pooh.

Intrusive Parenting at the Playground

At Psychology Today, Stanton Peele covers a wide variety of subject matter in his Addiction in Society blog. A January post takes aim at parental overprotectiveness and micro-management at the playground..


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It’s a short piece peppered with satire and worth the read if only for purposes of a self-assessment. Where are you on the anxiety – permissive scale when it comes to playground safety, child directed interaction with other kids, praise for playground feats?

Stanton provides six examples of less than desirable behaviours. I found myself nodding away in the affirmative to three of the six as behaviours I have occasionally indulged. No doubt many of us have fallen prey to one or more of these. It’s helpful to see them in reality check black and white, be aware and have a laugh at our shortcomings.

Do over coddled playground kids encounter more neuroses than kids left to swing, jump and run free? Read How To Make Your Child a Psychological Wreck – The Playground Manual and judge for yourself.

The Playground is Electric

In 2008, Daniel Sheridan won ₤5,500 to develop the idea of a see-saw that generates power. The BBC reported on the Coventry University design student’s innovation and his plans to test a prototype in Uganda.

Daniel was inspired to design the product following a volunteer placement in Kenya. The 23-year-old student saw a real opportunity linked to harnessing the energy and exuberance of children at play. Back in the UK he applied his research skills and came up with the idea of generating power through specially designed playground equipment.

The concept may seem like just a novelty in areas where the power grid is a given, a background hum of electric juice that few people think twice about. That’s not the case in many rural parts of the developing world. There is great potential to bring affordable power to communities that have very little, or no electrical power infrastructure at all. Daniel, as he told the BBC, has a dream. “Ultimately I would love to design a whole playground of different pieces of equipment that could generate enough electricity to power a whole village.”

Read the full BBC item here. PlayGroundology will be contacting Daniel and PlayMade Energy in the coming weeks to see how the young innovator’s journey to play power is progressing.

That’s it for the inaugural Playgrounds in the News. There will be four or five editions per year. Drop us a line if you come across something of interest.

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.

Endangered Species – Vanishing Playscapes

Brenda Biondo is a woman on a mission. Over the last six years she’s clocked thousands of miles on the roads of the southwestern United States. Each time she finds a treasure on one of her expeditions of discovery, she parks her car, takes out her camera and proceeds to shoot frame after frame of America’s disappearing vintage playgrounds. Her eyes and sensibilities are recording the zeitgeist of American public play primarily from the 1950s through the 1970s – the pre-plastic era.

Each shot immortalizes equipment that is on an endangered species list. Sometimes Brenda will return to a location six months after her original visit to get a winter shot and the equipment will have been removed. A selection of the best images are posted on her site – Old Playgrounds.

“There’s so much stuff that I’ve shot that’s already been ripped up. I feel there is a sense of urgency that I have to go out and shoot as much as possible as fast as I can before it’s gone.”

Seven years ago Brenda’s oldest child was born. From that moment she wanted to get back into photography. It was an interest that she had first explored in college but to which she had never fully dedicated her time and energy. She decided to go with her guts and breathed new life into her love for telling stories with still images. It’s working well for her and for playground aficionados everywhere.

She recognized the possibilities of playgrounds as a body of work during an excursion with her daughter. It was a thoroughly modern playground but the play of light was intriguing as was the potential for capturing abstract images. “As soon as I started looking I started noticing the older playgrounds and how interesting they were in comparison with the plastic things that are going up everywhere,” she says.

Brenda’s passion to record vintage playgrounds has taken her throughout Colorado and Arizona and to parts of New Mexico and Pennsylvania. Her shooting locations are pretty much aligned with where there are family members who can give her a hand with her young children. For now that is what’s practical but she does want to fan out over greater distances. “I’d really like to get to some of the other states and maybe up into Canada. Right now it’s a little tough to do but that’s my goal eventually to get more geographic diversity in what I’m shooting.”

A standard shooting trip includes a weekend away every few months and a return drive of 500 to 600 miles. Sometimes it’s out toward the Kansas border. “I’ll stay in a hotel overnight and shoot next day on my way back. I stop at all the little towns along the way. I’m not driving around randomly but a lot of the times you have to be kind of lucky to find these tucked away parks.”

It was luck that brought her to a Catholic school yard in Canon City, Colorado. She found an old piece there that has seen better days but is still in use. Her experience tells her that, “It’s been there since the 20s or the 30s and it looks like if somebody doesn’t do something with it soon, it’s not going to last much longer.”

Her photos are beautiful compositions that lovingly capture the instruments of play that many North Americans over the age of 40 scrambled on and over as kids. Viewing the photos, people are transported back through the years rekindling memories from their childhood.

For some, the journey is by rocket. In Boulder, Colorado in the 1960s, a playground was installed to commemorate the exploits of a local son – Scott Carpenter, who in May 1962, was the second American to orbit the earth as part of Project Mercury. The rocket, which still stands, was the centrepiece of the original playground. At an exhibit in Boulder’s Dairy Center for the Arts a few years ago, a photo of the rocket generated excited comments from those attending the opening. Three generations of Boulder residents have spent endless hours of fun imagining space adventures within its sturdy frame. Brenda sold three framed prints to people who had played on the rocket as kids.

There’s a rocket in my childhood too. It was much more modest than the vertical, ready for take off Boulder model. I started looking for a picture of it recently but as of yet, no luck. I remember it though, its 45° angle of trajectory, the orb, that served as the rocket’s nose, just large enough to scrunch up in and its bright primary colours. I can recall all the pieces from this North York, Toronto playground. They’re long gone now though. Unfortunately for me, Brenda never got this far afield.

The accomplished play with light, perspective and juxtaposition bring the photos into the realm of the extraordinary. They are singular works of beauty that also succeed in evoking a longing for play, a reverence for outdoor activity. As a body, the images are an important visual, archival record of the social and cultural dimensions of play Americana.

Brenda has yet to come across any archival institutions or museums that are taking a coordinated approach to documenting these rapidly disappearing playscapes from our past. “I haven’t heard of a playground museum. The stuff gets ripped up and gets trashed or recycled and nobody seems to keep any of it. I have to believe there’s someone out there, some organization that’s interested in preserving some of this history because it’s not going to be around very long.”

Brenda and I discuss the role of public archives and museums in the course of our conversation and she determines that the Smithsonian Institute could have some interest in the documentation, or preservation of playgrounds. We dream a little larger and imagine an outdoor living museum that is full of working equipment dating back as far as the 1920s. It’s a place where kids come to play and learn and experience some of the same simple pleasure thrills and spills as their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.

Brenda is in for the long haul. With the exception of a couple of exhibitions and the website, her time over the last few years has been dedicated primarily to shooting. She is now starting to invest more effort in publicizing the portfolio.

“It’s been fun. It gets me outdoors and I love being outdoors. Now that my kids are a little older I can take them with me to shoot. I think I’m going to be shooting playgrounds for at least the next 10 years, anywhere I see an old one I’m just going to be taking pictures.”

Brenda’s playground prints are available in a limited edition of 85 for each photo. Currently, the only size she prints is approximately [depending on crop] 18 x 12 inches. She prints them herself using archival pigment inks and on premium fine art paper. They’re available framed or unframed. Check Brenda’s website for other details.

If you’re in the Colorado area, Brenda will have 19 of her playground photos on exhibit from March 3 to April 30 at the Reed Photo-Art Gallery in Denver.

At the 2009 Palm Springs Photo Festival, Brenda was one of 16 exhibitors selected from 230 entries. Her slide show was very well received by the audience.

Playgroundology will check in periodically with Brenda for news. She’ll continue shooting in the Colorado area during the spring. In the summer she’ll be in D.C., Virginia and Maryland. If you see an intrepid photographer looking for interesting angles and playing with the light, it could be her.

All photos copyright Brenda Biondo.

Photo locations in order of appearance: Colorado Springs; La Junta, CO; Canon City, CO; Boulder, CO; Denver, CO; Riverview, PA.

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.