CARROLLWOOD – Who said you need a college degree to design a playground?
At Carrollwood Day School, it turned out that designing a playground for the early childhood campus really was child's play.
Ellen Nafe, the early childhood campus principal, thought it would be a nice idea if the design for the new playground at the lower school had some input from the school veterans, the 4-year-olds.
“The kids wanted a playground that was different, so we let them do it themselves,” Nafe said. “They wanted something that wasn't traditional and the 4-year-olds started doing designs. Then they decided they wanted for it to be an all-natural playground.”
At first, teachers talked to the children to get ideas, many of which made the cut. However some ideas, like a bowling alley, didn't.
“Kids can tell you want they want even at that age,” Nafe said. “The ideas changed dramatically, but we also learned how kids want to play. The only thing we wondered about was how it would fit the needs of the kids. We try to teach kids how to be artistic and this was something the kids did on their own.”
Nafe contacted Bienenstock, a Canadian designer and builder of all-natural playgrounds, and the rest is history.
The end result is an area that doesn't look like most playgrounds. In the center, there are metal objects anchored in the ground that can be used to make the sounds of different instruments. One, with a tap, can sound like a bongo drum. Another can make the sound of steel drums, and others can be used for bongos. Bike paths around the playground are not made of concrete, but of crushed shells. Tree stumps and rocks are used for climbing.
About the only artificial thing on the new playground is the turf soccer field. In the back of the playground there are rolling hills for bike riding, and there are trees that are good for climbing even at such a young age.
The next project is a natural tree fort.
“It's nice to see these young minds at work,” Nafe said. “It's amazing what they can do if you let them think and express themselves.”