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Northside Playscape


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Northside Playscape


A School playground designed by the kids, for the kids

Imagine a public curriculum that encourages children to take agency over the one domain they hold highest expertise: The School Playground. 

Through a yearlong 5-part curriculum, students grades K-5 collaborated with myself, art educator Rachael VanDyke, and Ann Arbor architecture firm Beckett & Raeder to redesign their existing playground to better suit their ideals for play. 

Students participated in a series of design projects to inform the actual playground, built in 2015.

 

(Playground Images Coming Soon!)  

 

 

 

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Part One: Meet them where they're at


Part One: Meet them where they're at


4th graders share opinions about old playground at A2 STEAM. Students investigated playground to begin proposals for a child - designed playscape at A2 STEAM

All A2 STEAM @ Northside students, Kindergarten through fifth grade, studied their current playground before designing a new one.

Students spent two weeks outdoors drawing their current playground from observation, and the following two weeks illustrating their ideal play space imagining financial and safety limitations were nonexistent. 

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Part Two: Shared learning experiece


Part Two: Shared learning experiece


Two students from each class in grades 1-5, conducted a research expedition, or as some may say a field trip, to three local playgrounds in Ann Arbor. We visited Washtenaw County Farm Park, the Maya Lin Wave Fields, and Matthew Botanical Gardens to consider different ways landscapes and structures inspire play.

Students responded to verbal and written prompts on site and shared their discoveries with classmates back at school.

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Part Three: Experimentation through play


THREE SELECTED PROJECTS FROM A LARGER SERIES OF LESSONS 

Part Three: Experimentation through play


THREE SELECTED PROJECTS FROM A LARGER SERIES OF LESSONS 

Pop-Up Adventure Playground

First graders constructed their own pop-up adventure playground, which promoted open-ended experimentation, collaboration, construction and idea generation. Their experience and group discussions helped promote advocacy for loose and found objects during outdoor play. 


Student designers teaching peers how to play their noncompetitive game

DIY PARACHUTES

Fourth grade students redesigned the circular parachute to promote positive play culture and to reduce bullying.

By emphasizing the use of color and shape, students created paper prototypes designed to the scale of toy figurines. After a series of voting and critiques, three works were chosen to be made full-scale along with a set of original non-competitive game instructions.

All three were donated to the A2 STEAM @ Northside gymnasium.


KINESTHETIC RUNNING PATHS

Fifth grade students created running paths as an initiative to encourage physical activity. They applied concepts of potential and kinesthetic energy to the steep slope of the school's hill, considering how an intentionally designed pathway could promote speed and agility.

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Part Four: Design with intention


Part Four: Design with intention


Architectural Models

Each class spent two months creating collaborative large-scale models of their ideal playscape. Each model features eight child-directed categories such as zippiness, landscaping, mounds & tunnels, slides, etc. These models were shared in a public workshop to 300+ community members, Beckett & Raeder,  and the Ann Arbor Public School Board & Superintendent. Students presented their design concepts, and community members discussed and voted on their favorite aspects to incorporate in the new playscape. Selected concepts were included and labled in the actual playscape architectural drawings.


Community Voting

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Part Five: Participatory Research


Part Five: Participatory Research


Each week throughout the curriculum, one class had the opportunity to pose one question to the rest of the school. Students discussed topics together before choosing the one, most important concept to share with peers. 5th grade students recorded data from each poll. Featured are 5 of the most popular questions. Each numeric value represents the average percentage from all classes, grades K-5.

What Type of Playground do you Prefer?

On the playground, do you prefer to play:

WHAT IS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE TRADITIONAL PLAYGROUND ITEM?

What is the most important component we can include in the new playscape?

What playscape theme do you prefer?

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Connecting Curriculum


A public exhibition of the Northside Playscape Curriculum

Connecting Curriculum


A public exhibition of the Northside Playscape Curriculum

The Connecting Curriculum exhibition made our playscape curriculum accessible to a wider audience through a series of visual installations at Work Gallery in Ann Arbor. Each installation demonstrates our curricular theories, project implementation and elementary student artwork.