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Transforming the playground

Aug 22, 2014 |

As many Vancouver school playgrounds are undergoing changes, with wood based structures being removed and parent advisory committees scrambling to design new structures under tight budgets, a team of UBC researchers and students are aiming to offer an affordable solution that will advance the idea of the playground. PLAYbook, is a comprehensive guide on how schools can best innovate their playgrounds in the areas of landscape architecture, sustainable design, economic and phasing strategies, child development, and injury prevention.

Dr. Mariana Brussoni

Dr. Mariana Brussoni

PLAYbook will also enhance cognitive development by giving children an environment where they can use natural elements. “Being able to manipulate the environment is about having diverse play opportunities. The best development will allow children to manipulate their environment,” says Dr. Mariana Brussoni. Dr. Brussoni’s role is to promote child intellect by incorporating the design of high quality, challenging, and diverse play environments into the guide. Her research shows that playgrounds do not offer sufficient challenges for child development since most equipment is only designed for one or two purposes. Studies also show that having diverse opportunities and free play build executive functioning tasks and encourage risk decision-making.

“Free time is important to develop these things. If you are always in a structured environment you don’t have the opportunity to achieve those goals.” says Dr. Brussoni.

Richmond’s Garden City Park playground is a current example that shows what these changes may look like.

Crowdsourced online voting support from the SPPH community helped the PLAYbook team earn their place as CST category champion, and funding support for the project, which aims to be completed by end of the 2014. It is expected to transform playgrounds for over 55,000 students beginning in 2015 at a far cheaper cost than conventional equipment.

CST PLAYBook cheque ceremony

(l to r): Sara Brunelle, Mariana Brussoni, Ryan Coghlan, Kris Fox, CST Representative, Nathan Grimson, and Susan Gerofsky.

by Bryan Nordley