The Playground Structures Project is one of my favourites.
There’s so much more too it than you might first imagine and it’s the type of project which could be tackled by a variety of age groups.
It’s not just about making different rides although that can be great fun and involve all sorts of materials and equipment.
A key part of the project is the design of a whole playground which hopefully will include many of the individual rides designed and made by all of the children.
Designing a playground really makes children think about other people. A playground isn’t for one person. It is used by groups. We might visit a playground with one or two friends of the same age but we also might visit as a family group with people of widely differing ages.
A playground should be designed with the needs of all visitors being taken into account.
Here is a possible outline plan for tackling the playground project...
1. The ‘shapes game’.
A great way to learn or revise 2D shapes. Basic shape vocabulary is important in this project since we have to describe structures.
2. Structures experiments.
Some introductory science experiments about the strength of structures and the materials from which they might be made. eg. testing the strength of a piece of paper as a sheet compared to a cylinder and then again compared to a tightly rolled tube.
A paper cylinder standing on its end can support an amazing weight of books balanced on top of it! This is a fascinating thing for youngsters to observe
Comparing square and triangle shapes made in stiff card, wood or plastic strips.
This shows how some shapes behave differently when we push on them. The triangle seems reluctant to change shape but the square easily changes into a diamond shape. Triangles are a very special ‘strong’ shape! The shape of something can make a big difference to how strong it is.
3. Playground visit. Playing on the rides and looking at the various shapes and materials in the structures themselves. Discussing how a playground is used and by which age-groups. Good things and bad things about playgrounds.
4. Making playground rides and designing new ones.