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Playgrounds for the Imagination

Playgrounds are fun, but how exciting and engaging would they be if designed by kids? This lesson challenges students to sculpt a safe and creative play space.

  • Kindergarten
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Post pictures of the student play space. Ask the class what they enjoy most abut the playground. What could make it even better? List student responses on a classroom white board.
    2. Share Let's Build a Playground by Michel J. Rosen as a read aloud with the class. Discuss how the children of the book worked together and, through collaboration, made creative solutions for their school/community. Explain to students that in this project they will be using paper in new and unusual ways.
    3. Organize students into teams of two. Provide each team with 15 pieces of paper along with scissors and glue. Encourage them to imagine the most amazing play space ever created. Explain that they will be designing a play space represented in paper. What two surprises will their playgrounds have? What 5 distinct features will each have? Will the playgrounds each have a theme?
    4. Remind students that play spaces should be fun but also need to be safe for everyone. Encourage them to consider safety as they design a play space.
    5. Teams can add their best ideas to a class visual poster. Post this prominently in the classroom for easy reference.
    6. Demonstrate adding patterns and textures to papers before building with it. Have Crayola Crayons, Markers and Colored Pencils available for groups to use when adding these designs.
    7. Provide sufficient class time for students to experiment, build and sculpt with paper. Show them how to cut, twist, join and manipulate paper to add strength, height and create form.
    8. Individual pieces will be glued to a piece of tagboard to create a the play space. Allow time for glue to thoroughly dry.
    9. Have groups share their finished designs with classmates, explaining how their playgrounds work.
  • Standards

    LA: Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade level topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

    LA: Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions as desired to provide additional detail.

    LA: Participate in shared research and writing projects (e.g., explore a number of books by a favorite author and express opinions about them).

    SCI: Asking questions, making observations, and gathering information are helpful in thinking about problems.

    SCI: Communicate solutions with others in oral and/or written forms using models and/or drawing.

    SCI: Modeling in K–2 builds on prior experiences and progresses to include using and developing models (i.e., diagram, drawing, physical replica, diorama, dramatization, storyboard) that represent concrete events or design solutions.

    SS: Describe how people create places that reflect ideas, personality, culture, and wants and needs as they design homes, playgrounds, classrooms, and the like.

    SS: Consider existing uses and propose and evaluate alternative uses of resources and land in home, school, community, the region, and beyond.

    VA: Engage in exploration and imaginative play with materials.

    VA: Create art that represents natural and constructed environments.

    VA: Explain the process of making art while creating.

    VA: Describe what an image represents.

  • Adaptations

    Substitute or add modeling clay or dough to create other three- dimensional forms in this project. This will allow students to have an additional sculpting experience.

    PBS Kids Design Squad has wonderful resources including links that describe how to build a cardboard playground. Allow students to work collaboratively to create a playground using found materials including cardboard, tape and other similar objects. Building to scale is a challenging design problem that requires teamwork and communication skills beyond problem solving skills in design and math.

    Add meaning to this project project, as students prepare to present their ideal playgrounds, invite the principal or other administrator to listen to presentations.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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