One of my favorite “before and after” shots ever:
This “learning labyrinth” was completed with approximately six gallons of paint and 30 total volunteer hours from about 12 volunteers. It took just one day to transform a bare bones play yard into a giant game board with a colorful garden context and educationally engaging activities.
Between school budget cuts and the drought, many playgrounds in California lack grass or gardens, leaving black asphalt, cream buildings and metal chain link fencing as the primary visual elements. Using the blacktop as a canvas for art is a great way to make a space meant for kids feel, well, meant for kids.
Highlights of the design include:
1. An alphabet hopscotch in the learning edge of lower case letters, with the letters in clusters similar to how they might sing the ABC song. There is enough distance between some letters to require leaping so it is physically engaging.
2. Being the Springer Bees, the honeybee made a lot of appearances in the design, as in the rainbow crosswalk here.
3. Kids get to jump in the pond at the end of their alphabet and “Counting by 5” paths, displacing a large frog. Apparently, sitting on the frog is a popular recess activity and there is a small queue for the privilege.
4. The Mirror Me station invites children to an impromptu game of physical copycat.
5. I scrambled the numbers up a bit towards the end of the “Counting by 5’s” path to make sure the players were not guessing.
I stopped by the Springer kindergarten yard the following Monday morning to watch the kids engage with their new game board play yard. The joy was palpable. It seemed more like Christmas morning than Monday morning. The kids ran back and forth between the newly painted “Beehive” playhouse and the “playground game board” with delight.
Here is a 30 second clip of the fun:
Watching this scene on Monday morning, I had the thought that every kindergartner in America should be able to play in such a beautiful schoolyard. If the basic formula is one volunteer work day and six gallons of paint, why not?
With that in mind, I have created a step-by-step overview of how to recreate this project at your local school or playground. This would be a great corporate team-building event, church volunteer day or just gather up twelve friends and make it a party. The volunteers on the Springer project signed up for two hours but stayed four or five. Everyone was had a blast and we all felt the magic of what we were bringing to the school.
Here it is. Please share it with your PTA, your church, your HR department, and social media!
Special thanks goes to Christy Flahavan for being the visionary behind this project. She found me, lobbied the PTA to fund the project, and smoothed out every obstacle so that I could show up and facilitate this. It just takes the initiative of one person. Every school should be so fortunate as to have a “Christy”.
I also want to thank the volunteers that came out to help. We all worked hard together. The day before the project we were still short volunteers from the school so I sent a last minute e-mail out to my friends asking for help. Five of my friends showed up to spend their Saturday painting at a school not their own because they are just wonderful like that. I love my peeps.
Thanks for helping me spread the word about this project. I hope this project is copied and replicated everywhere. The kids deserve it!