Saturday, April 16, 2011

Wild Playgrounds

Can we bring ourselves to detach from the sterile play chips and rubber of the playground? Can we remove ourselves from the concept of intensive maintenance, mowing, and clear sight lines?

Large, flat, and clean! From

I know it can be a scary concept for some, but letting our playspaces go wild may have value for kids beyond our imagination. I talk a lot about nature play, but even the very concept of nature play varies from person to person. At the bare minimum it contains nature! Nature is varied. It often looks messy and it is alive and changing. If we can move these concepts into our play spaces we have begun to allow nature a foothold in play. After seeing countless playgrounds in Germany I started to see how their view on vegetation and playgrounds was so different from what I have seen in the US.

Alastair Seaman of Grounds For Learning in Scotland had similar realizations while visiting these German Playscapes. You can view a short video clip that addresses this and other issues he observed.

Sand migrates

Willow and bamboo create rough paths and forts

Plants (and weeds!) grow up, around, and through play elements

Plants and People Co Exist

I think these spaces are inviting, wild, and fun. They prove that nature play and plants do not have to mean higher maintenance. They may just require higher tolernace for the wild!

Oregon Natural Play Initiative

After feeling pretty isolated in struggles to implement natural play I have started a group to talk about Natural Play in Oregon. The Oregon Natural Play Initiative consists of a core group and an advisory group of people that in 2011- 2012 will meet and develop a set of Standards for Natural Play in Oregon. We are just getting assembled and started, so there will be much more to come!

Follow this link or email me for more information.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Portland 's Skyline School Installs a 90' Wind Turbine

"Today, Skyline School generated 0.9 Kilowatt-hours of electricity. This could power A typical video game system for 1 day."   

See other real time data at  Solar 4 R Schools.

"March 28 was a busy Monday at Skyline, as we combined students returning from Spring Break with the successful installation of a 90 foot tower topped by a wind turbine. Students were able to safely view portions of the installation, as the construction crew lifted the tower into place with a large crane. The power generated by the wind turbine will contribute about 3% of the total power needed by the school. This project is educational as well, and a kiosk in the Skyline Library gives students, staff, and parents the ability to view power generation in real time. As the site gets more functional we will share that link with you."
Ben Keefer
Principal of Skyline School
See the Principal's full letter on the Skyline School Website 

See how much energy the turbine is creating by following this link to Solar 4 R Schools. I like  how Solar for our schools provides a realty time web based interface with information kids can understand. 

More information can be found here


Friday, April 01, 2011

Natural Play for Teen Parents

This is a fast moving and exciting natural play project in North Portland. The Pathfinder Academy is an amazing program. Their students are engaged, staff supportive, and they draw dedicated volunteers and positive energy from their community. I just finished working up these two site plans for their play area. It is located in a courtyard in the church where they are based. Construction and grading has already started so hopefully finished product photos are not far behind!

The Pathfinder Academy successfully helps teen and young parents (up to age 21) who have dropped out of high school to re-enter school and earn their GED.  The Academy was founded in 1999 and over the past ten years, the Academy has delivered a very solid core of programming that addresses barriers to GED completion: providing a young-parent friendly approach which includes addressing their broader needs in areas such as housing, income support, and physical safety; as well as such concrete assistance as getting youth to school regularly and helping secure regular childcare for their children.

The Pathfinder Academy is implementing the Pathfinder Academy: Building Health and Parent-Child Bonding Through Outdoor Play project in order to teach teen parents healthy activities (which they themselves may not have experienced as children) and to support teens learning to interact positively with their children.  At least 40 teen parents and their 40+ children will benefit from this project each year.  Through the Outdoor Play project, each week parents and children will eat a nutritious meal together, and engage in coached outdoor play, including a 20 hour curriculum teaching the importance of physical activity for children’s brain development and health.
Parents will learn to play in these areas with their children, which may also be a first for them.  Engaging in play together will help parents gain knowledge about child play and social development, increase stimulation and positive bonding with their children.  The play and curriculum will foster a cultural change for the teens to begin engaging in physical activity with their children.
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