Friday, May 10, 2013

Play Water Pump Races

The Tulip Festival in Woodburn Oregon attracts visitors from around the region. Even on rainy and cold days you can find people there (this rainy and cold day it was me). They have some neat kids activities. One I was particularly interested in was the water pump duck races.

Kids or a helpful adult pumps the hand pumps until enough water floods their chutes to push their ducks along. I like the activity because it has a lot of variation; each pump has little differences, each chute has a different amount or size of ducks, and everyone pumps differently. 

Only the older kids understood that is was a race, but the little ones had just as much fun. I can see this providing hours of fun at a school or early childhood center too.
A few design details:
- both ends of the chutes sat over animal  troughs that held the water
- the pumps were actually pumping water from these troughs
- the chutes were made of gutter materials
- loos parts of the rubber ducks made it all worth while

This is another venture into the world of hand pumps. I liked these, for their intended purpose. It would not work in all applications, but on this drizzly spring day it was engaging, functional  and entertaining.

See my other post on hand pumps Finding the Perfect Hand Pump

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Learning Landscapes Start a New Design Shop

Hi Readers

I am excited to announce that Learning Landscapes has turned from a blog into a business! After many years of thinking and researching about inspiring children's spaces I have taken the leap to owning and running a business. With 6 projects underway the business is off to a great start.

I will continue to blog, but the interface will look a little different. Updates will come from the new website It will also have updated sections on the company, current projects, and how we could help you realize your project. 

I welcome your comments and ideas and hope you continue to enjoy the blog.


Friday, March 29, 2013

Removing Asphalt to Build a Natural Playground

It seems that playgrounds consisting of a sea of asphalt with a few pieces of playground equipment off to the side have been the norm for a long time. Some of us think that it has been the norm for too long!
We want to see this...

turn to this...
Mt. Hood Community College Early Childhood Center

Removing asphalt can be a tricky project and I have found a few reoccurring issues that should be addressed. If you can jump through a few hoops it can be one of the most rewarding projects for your school or playground. 

1 Parking
Make sure you maintain the amount of parking required by code (In Portland OR check here). Although you may not want to use the parking spaces. There is often a minimum amount of spaces required. If you have to keep the spaces in the long run, but don't need them for the current building use consider some creative building on top of the asphalt.

Marylhurst Early Childhood Center in Oregon City - under 'construction'.  They segmented off part of the unused parking area for play by using planters and biobags.

2 Soil Tests
It is always a good idea to test the soil under the asphalt. Depave a Portland Organization specializing in pavement removal says,
"Depave discourages community members from removing pavement that is covering contaminated soil. If contamination is currently present in the soil, the contamination is capped and is not causing any severe negative environmental or health impacts. Unless there is a cleanup plan in place, removing the pavement may do more harm than good." 
This is great advice especially when kids, gardening, or water are involved. Depave has more advice in their how to depave guide.

3 Water and Traffic Flow
Take a good look at your site and make sure the asphalt removal is not going to trigger any new problems. Asphalt conveys water well from one area to another, soil and play areas may erode under the same water forces. Is there anything draining to the asphalt? Where will the water go once the asphalt is removed? This is a great opportunity to incorporate stormwater features and rain gardens.

Also consider traffic. How will people get around in the new area? What effects will this have on the new uses of the space?

Rainwater Feature at Mount Hood Community College Early Childhood Center.
 It takes water from the roof top to a playground stormwater swale.

4 Create a New Vision Plan
Develop a site plan that outlines what you will do after the asphalt is removed. Remember that under the asphalt is often 4" to 6" of rock on top of very compacted soils. Plan to help bring your soils back to life through aeration and added nutrients.

Create a Concept Plan for the new area that includes all of the proposed elements to scale

5 Removal and Disposal

Always call before you dig! Running into an underground line can be a very big danger. Asphalt is also softer and lighter than concrete and is not suitable for reuse. It is readily recycled by pavement processing companies. It is not something you want to bury on your site. the National Asphalt Pavement Association has further information and resources.

6 Implement Your New Design

Now the fun can start! I would love to see your success stories of children's spaces built after asphalt removal.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Universally Accessible Nature Themed Play Area

It was a cool March morning, but the sand and water area at Harper's Playground was packed! Kids were sliding down all sides of the 'grassy' hill. From a distance the play area looked peaceful and really fun. My daughter ran for it across the lawn.

Harper's Playground - Portland Oregon

" Harper’s Playground will build community by providing an inclusive playground at Arbor Lodge Park where children and adults of all abilities can play together."
- The Harper's Playground Mission

The playground is beautiful and well laid out. Every feature is accessible or has an accessible type. An artificial turf grass surfacing was used in some of the use zones. I thought it would look pretty fake. But, with all the action of the kids and other design features it melted to the background really well. There are lots of different types of play (including just exploring and running around, which seems to be ever popular). The central mound with the slide is a really great feature. It adds topography and interest to the overall design.

What a beautiful asset for this City of Portland Park. Project Partners included Place Studios, Walsh Construction and lots of other donors.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

National Wildlife Week

The National Wildlife Federation is celebrating National Wildlife Week with some great information about animals and how they depend on trees. There is a 6' tall poster, trading cards on animals and trees as well as free trees for students to plant. These are great resources to jump start a conversation with the young people in your life. Enjoy!

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