First, Trish will be speaking on "
" on 2/10 at 8:30am Rm 501.
Turns out the county schools safety manager has decided the cost of maintaining the required safety surfacing under all of the swingsets in the school system is too expensive, as is the cost of the lawsuits filed against Cabell County Schools (two in the past year) for injuries sustained on swingsets. So he's having swings removed from all of the county's elementary schools.
As someone who has designed plenty of playgrounds, I can understand his problem. Swings require a very large area of safety surfacing compared to other elements on a playground, which takes time and money to install and maintain properly.
This situation brings up a lot of questions. Like, what is the value of play, relative to other things the school has to pay for? Are swings more valuable than other play elements, enough so to justify the extra expense of providing them? And is depriving kids of the opportunity to swing on the school playground just plain "un-American"? Some people seem to think so.
I have my own thoughts on these questions, but the fact is, it's hard to point to reliable sources for definitive answers. Yet these are turning out to be important questions. Important enough that a state senator has gotten involved. Senator Evan Jenkins, D-Cabell has asked the Cabell County Schools Superintendent to suspend the removal of swings from playgrounds until the matter can be looked at more fully. Jenkins is asking interesting questions, like what the history of injuries from swingsets really is in Cabell and statewide; and how much removing swingsets from school playgrounds will save the county on its insurance premiums.
If nothing else, this story points out that child's play is a lot more complicated than people think, and a lot more important, too, in today's complicated world. That makes what we do here at Design Concepts just a little more worthwhile, I think.
My recent trip to London was great fun, with the added bonus of incredible weather: long days of sunshine and warm temperatures. Perfect for enjoying the many fine parks found there. Fortunately, my two young traveling companions, aged seven and eleven, shared my own personal interest in parks and especially playgrounds. We visited every playground we could find, and what we found was that London offers some great places to play. The large and well-known Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens lived up to it's reputation, with a sand beach and water play, huge pirate ship and a variety of nooks and crannies to explore. The playground is not only fun for the kids, it's also a pleasant place for parents, with places to relax in a garden-like setting.
The girls also had a great time at the Holland Park Adventure Playground, which has a wide variety of moving elements, including several different types of swings and spinners, and platforms suspended on cables that all bounce and jiggle when kids (and their parents) jump on them. It also has one of the long zip-lines that we found in many of London's parks. With so many interactive things to do, the girls couldn't help but make friends among the children of many nationalities who visit the park. It was interesting to see how the kids all quickly figured out how to cooperate to make things spin faster and go farther, even when they didn't speak the same language.
In Kew Gardens we found a number of fantastic interpretive playgrounds, including one inside a greenhouse (especially popular in the wet weather London is famous for, I'm sure) and several natural play areas built around the concepts of photosynthesis, the food chain, and other natural processes. Lots of great ideas for combining play, learning, and nature can be found at Kew Gardens.
London's playgrounds were among the highlights of our trip, offering the girls a way to burn off some youthful energy, interact with people their own age, and maybe even learn a little about the environment while we grownups enjoyed a shady spot to take a break from the rigors of sightseeing. They make a great city even better.
July 16th, 2010