Activity time: 25 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Cardboard boxes, empty food containers, dowels, Popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, string, wooden chopsticks and other interesting items for constructing a model playground
- Tape, scissors and color markers
- Newsprint, markers and tape
- Toy figures to play on the model playground
- Optional: A piece of rug or a grass mat to serve as the "lot" for the model playground. Online, you can purchase a grass mat intended for toy railroad sets. A piece of cardboard painted brown or green would also serve the purpose.
Preparation for Activity
- Gather the building materials for the model playground and place them and the toy figures on a work table.
- Find a safe place to store the finished playground model.
- Post blank newsprint where all can see it.
Description of Activity
The children experience the energy of a barn-raising by designing and building a model of a playground that welcomes everyone.
Tell the children, in your own words:
Now we are going to have our own barn-raising here. We are not really building a barn, but we will build something we all will appreciate: a community playground.
Indicate the toy figures you have brought. Say:
Let's pretend these are the children who will play in the playground when we are done. Our playground will be fun and safe and welcoming for everyone in our pretend community, as well as any of their friends who might like to come and play. What do you think we should have in our playground?
Affirm ideas and write them on newsprint. Fantastical ideas are fine, but guide children away from ideas that are very unsafe or likely to foster violence or exclusion. Lead the children to identify a few specific items that all or most of them want the playground to have (such as a slide, a tower, a sand box) and assign volunteers to make them. Write each child's name by an item they will help to make.
Invite the children to use the materials on the work table to build the items they have been assigned. Circulate among the children and ask them about their work. It is fine if some children work on their own to develop a new idea, but make sure they remain part of the group process.
With about five minutes left for this activity, ask the children to stop their work, bring their creations to the playground "lot," and share with the group what they have made. Welcome the toy "children" to the playground and let the group use the toys for some "play time."
Ask the children what it felt like to build the playground together and why it is a good place for all children. Elicit ideas about how children with different abilities and interests could use the playground, with questions such as:
- If somebody were afraid to climb the tower, what could they do at the playground?
- Do you think more swings, or different kinds of swings, might be good to add?
- What are some different ways the swings (or tower, or monkey bars) could be used?
- If someone came to the playground in a wheelchair, which parts could they go to? What could they do? Where could they play with other children?
Engage the group in cleaning up after this activity. If you are doing Activity 5, Welcome Celebration, explain that clean-up is necessary before the children can have a snack. It will be helpful if you have already designated a safe place to store the playground model and have bins to place unused materials. Reserve a piece of cardboard for the Wonder Box poster.
Including All Participants
It is important that the children plan a playground that will be accessible, safe and fun for every child in the group, as well as other children. Encourage inclusive thinking with questions like, "How could a child with a wheelchair use the playground?" / "What could a blind child do at this playground?" / "If somebody does not know how to use monkey bars, how could they play on this?"