## Designing a Playground!

By Miriam Kelsey, July 23, 2009

### Grade Level

- Elementary School

### Category

- Summer Design Institute

### Subject Area

- Language Arts
- Mathematics
- Science

### Lesson Time

450 minutes for classroom activities. (Note: This an integrated unit with fifteen 1/2 hour lessons spanning over 3-4 weeks. This is a thorough, integrated unit.)

### Introduction

Students are challenged to design a playground apparatus that is age-appropriate and safe. Subject areas of the unit include math, science, language arts, and life skills. Students will be engaged in the design process by the following:
Students investigate the design challenge by:

- Taking pictures of their favorite playground equipment and sorting pictures by characteristics of movement.
- Making a class pictograph of favorite playground equipment.
- Investigating the properties of 2D and 3D shapes to facilitate their understanding of design.
- Interviewing friends and peers about playground equipment.
- Researching playground equipment around the world.
- Finding (with the help of parents and the teacher) experts in the field to collaborate with (architects, designers, playground companies).
- Investigating simple machines found on the playground.

- Group discusses if their design ideas have changed after their research.
- Students evaluate safety constraints.

- Students design a prototype including a picture, written description, and model.

- Students participate in group discussion.
- Students interview friends about design idea.
- Students share design idea with mentors.

- Students use input from potential clients (friends), mentors, and group.
- Students make final prototype.

- Students present design to mentor.
- Students present design to class.
- Students send design to PTA for future playground.
- Student designers participate in school or system science fair.
- Students send designs to playground companies for collaboration.

- Students volunteer with groups installing a community playground.
- Students are challenged to find a way to design playground equipment that has multiple functions as play and provides a life-improving design for the “other 90%.”

### National Standards

**Writing**

**Reading**

**Listening and Speaking**

### Objectives

Students will:

- understand that geometric shapes are integral in representing real-world things
- use a variety of problem-solving strategies
- use computation to solve real-world problems
- be able to apply properties of geometry
- display and interpret data using graphs
- be able to understand and apply concepts of force and motion
- understand the nature of science knowledge, scientific inquiry and scientific enterprise
- be able to use the writing process to write in a variety of genres
- be able to read for information
- be able to use listening and speaking skills for different purposes
- use thinking and reasoning skills in the design process
- use strategies to work well with others

### Resources

Playgrounds around the world: http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&q=playgrounds&btnG=Search+Images&gbv=2&aq=f&oq=
Simple Machines: http://www.mikids.com/Smachines.htm
Play Pumps: http://www.playpumps.org/site/c.hqLNIXOEKrF/b.2559311/k.BCFF/Home.htm
Safety at the Playground by Marylee Knowlton. Crabtree Pub. Co. ISBN 0778743233
Kitten Castle by Mel Friedman. Math Matters

### Materials

- disposable cameras
- butcher paper (for class graph of playgrounds and for the table of 3D attributes)
- pencils
- markers
- colored pencils
- crayons
- paint
- yardstick
- 3D shapes: cubes, spheres, cones, rectangular prisms, triangular prisms, square-based pyramid, triangular-based pyramid, cylinders
- 2D shapes: circles, squares, triangles, oval, pentagons, trapezoids, hexagon, octagons
- small plastic kittens (optional)
- Floam
- modeling clay
- blocks
- tooth-picks
- marshmallows
- pipe-cleaners
- magnetic spheres
- wooden craft sticks
- rubber bands
- straws
- string
- glue
- drawing paper
- construction paper
- tracing paper
- movable figurines or dolls
- lined writing paper

### Procedures

The Design Process
Review the Challenge:
Students are challenged to design a playground apparatus that is age-appropriate and safe (constraints).
Investigate the problem or opportunity:
Lesson 1:
1. Students will use disposable cameras and be given an assignment to take pictures of a playground and playground structures. Students will bring the pictures to school and discuss and sort the pictures into meaningful groups they determine. Then, students will be asked to sort pictures based on characteristics of movement: spinning, jumping, swinging, climbing, or balancing, etc. (Remediation: Students can use kinesthetic movements to help understanding such as spinning, jumping, swinging and item, balancing on one leg or climbing. You can demonstrate during recess.)
Lesson 2:
1. Students will make a large class pictograph representing the results of each student’s favorite playground structure. Pictures of the playground apparatus will be placed on one axis of the graph. Each student will cut out and decorate a paper student. Then, each student will make his/her vote by gluing it on the pictograph or bar graph relative to the piece of equipment he or she is voting for. (Materials: butcher paper, markers, yardstick, paper student outline or wooden craft stick.)
2. Students will use mathematical language to make observations about the class graph:
a) Which structure had the most votes?
b) Which structure had the least?
c) Did any structures have an equal amount of votes?
d) Do you notice any patterns?
e) Did boys or girls choose the same play structure?
Lesson 3:
1. Students will discuss the geometric 2D and 3D shapes they see in the playground pictures and at playgrounds. (Pre-requisite: Recognize 2D and 3D shapes.) Students will investigate the properties of interacting 3D shapes to build structures. After reading Kitten Castle, students will design their own kitten castle with 3D shapes for each kitten in the story. (One kitten doesn’t like any corners – so he lives inside a cylinder; another likes to climb so he lives in a tower – a cone above a cylinder; one kitten feels secure when everything is the same – he lives in a cube.) As students design and construct the kitten castle, they will discover which shapes can be stacked, which roll, and which can do both. Students will sort and graph the 3D shapes by whether the shapes will stack, roll, or stack and roll. Students will complete a table chart of the 3D qualities. (Optional homework: Students go on a shape hunt: Look for 2D and 3D shapes around their house or the school.)
Lesson 4:
1. Students will interview other students and friends about what playground apparati are their favorites and have them explain why. Then, students will share their interview results with their design teams. Students will have a picture of each of the play apparatus on the school playground. Students can pick their favorite one and the students can make a tally mark for each vote. (Challenge Differentiation: Students have a 1-4 scale on the interview sheet. Interviewees are asked to rate four apparatus in order, from least favorite to most favorite. Students tally the votes for each rating and determine least to most favorite for the group.) Students will make a bar graph of the results and interpret the results.
Lesson 5:
1. Students will investigate typical playgrounds around the world using books and the internet. Students can make pictures of their favorite playground apparatus to hang in the classroom.
2. Students will learn about simple machines used on the playground. The lesson starts by viewing pictures of Stone Hedge. Students are asked to think about how the large boulders were moved. Have students supply ideas and act out the ideas. For example, if students say leverage, use a board and a block to demonstrate. (seesaw = lever and fulcrum) This Web site - http://www.mikids.com/Smachines.htm - provides pictures of simple machines. Teachers/students can use their science textbooks for additional simple machines information. Students can investigate the playground pictures or school playground to find examples of simple machines. Students will add simple machine labels to the classroom display of playgrounds.
Lesson 6:
1. Teacher, parents, and contacts will brainstorm to find local experts in the field for collaboration with the kindergarten class. Students will write questions about their ideas to engineers, architects, design teachers, or playground design companies. Possible venues: colleges, high schools, engineering schools, architectural firms, design firms. Students write questions about their design. If you can only find one “expert” then compile a class book of student’s questions.
Frame/Reframe the Problem: Ask the students: Did your investigation affect your initial reactions to the challenge? Did you identify the correct problem? Take time to re-examine, rethink, and redefine the correct problem. Based on your investigations have you changed your idea for design? If so, what led you to change and why? As a class discuss any problems to see if adjustments need to be made.
Lesson 7:
1. Students will meet in design groups to re-examine initial ideas, re-think new ideas, and focus on design problem. Students should take notes, draw pictures of the ways their group has re-defined the problem.
Lesson 8:
1. Ask the students: Did you adhere to safety constraints? Students will exchange stories about getting hurt on the playground and try to determine the causes. Teacher may need to scaffold connections or provide scenarios for students to investigate. Possible concerns: height, traffic pattern, playground rules, age of students playing at same time, slippery surfaces. Resource - Safety at the Playground by Marylee Knowlten.
Generate Possible Solutions:
Lesson 9: (1 hour - up to 2 sessions)
1. Brainstorm possible solutions! Use team-building activities to develop lots of ideas. Have each person responsible for giving at least two ideas, keep the feedback positive and record ideas by writing, sketching, or modeling. “Asset map” your group to see who will do best with different activities. (Drawing, writing, research, construction of model.) Think of crazy ideas outside the box! Assess how students use life skills to work productively as a group, give feedback, and have group rate each other and self.
Edit & Development: (team, individual, or partners)
Lesson 10: (1.5 hours – up to 3 sessions)
1. Have each child decide which design idea he or she wants to use. Each child should develop a prototype using all of the design steps below.
1. Picture – details with labeled diagram of features and parts.
2. Written description – use your detailed picture to help you describe:
a) What the apparatus looks like.
b) What is it made from?
c) How it will move, or how you will move when on it?
d) What geometric shapes will be used to make it?
3. Model – build a model of your design (include a child or children on your model) (Possible materials available for use: Floam; modeling clay; blocks; toothpicks and marshmallows; pipe cleaners; magnetic spheres and cylinders; wooden craft sticks; crayons; colored pencils; rubber bands; straws; string; glue; paper; construction paper; 2D shapes; 3D shapes.)
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Share & Evaluate your process and ideas:
Lesson 11: (1 to 1.5 hours – up to 3 sessions)
1. (20 minuntes) Have each student share the design process and ideas with their group. They should make notes of suggestions, changes, or good points.
2. (30 minutes) Each student should take his or her prototype outside including the written description, pictures, and model. Each student should interview three other children about his or her design. In the interview, the student should:

- Tell the classmate about his or her playground apparatus and what it does.
- Explain how his or her design works.
- Tell the classmate about how they will move or how the apparatus will move.
- Ask the classmate if he or she has any suggestions to improve the design.
- Have the classmate rate it for: safety, fun, and usage (high-low).
- Assessment: The student should then make a table of the results.

- original design idea
- changes the student made and and explanation of why the changes were made
- the craziest idea the student had
- who helped the most: the classmate interviews, the mentor, or the team?
- how the safety constraints were met
- how the requirements of the challenge were met
- what the student learned from the design process
- what the student could improve on next time

### Assessment

Formative Assessments:
Lesson 2: Students write about the class graph of favorite play structure. (Use grade-level writing rubric for informational writing.)
Lesson 3: Students make kitten castle and sort 3D shapes by attributes.
Lesson 4: Students make a bar graph of playground interviews and interpret results.
Lesson 6: Students label simple machines.
Lesson 7: Students write design questions to experts.
Lesson 9: Assess group skills, teacher, group members, and self. Check that each person contributed two ideas.
Lesson 10: Teacher gives specific feedback to students on what they need to continue to work on for final presentation and what they have done well.
Lesson 11: Each group compiles a list of suggestions from the group and clients. Make a table of client surveys.
Lessons 11 & 12: Assessment of: Visuals, Written Description of Model, Written Report, Model, Presentations. Teacher gives specific feedback to students on what they need to continue to work on for final presentation and what they have done well. Mentor gives feedback on final design process.
Final Presentation Rubrics:
1. Working Prototype Model
2. Spoken Final Presentation
3. Written Summary of Design Process (Lower ages spell phonetically or draw pictures and dictate ideas to teacher.)
4. Visual Presentation
5. Design Constraints (safety and age appropriate)
6. Life Skills

### Enrichment Extension Activities

Have a school Science Fair for the designers to present to the other students, teachers, and parents.
Designers can send in the diagrams, photographs, and written descriptions to the PTA for future playground additions!
Student playground designers can contact groups who are installing playgrounds and submit their designs for consideration. Students can write to playground design companies to share their ideas and get feedback or collaboration.
Students can design a whole playground using all the design prototypes set up on a large table.
Teacher or student playground designers can offer to volunteer for groups who are installing playgrounds (for a neighborhood renewal, church, or charity). Take photographs and write a summary. Determine what changes you would need to make to your design after you have made a playground.
Students can write persuasive letters to convince residents to build a community playground.
Teacher can tell students about the African “Play Pumps International” http://www.playpumps.org/site/c.hqLNIXOEKrF/b.2559311/k.BCFF/Home.htm
Play Pumps are an invention that is both life-changing and life-saving. The PlayPump systems are basically just water pumps powered by children at play. Installed near schools, the PlayPump system doubles as a water pump and a merry-go-round for children. Rather than spending their days traveling many miles on foot to collect water for their family, children can attend school and pump clean water from distant sources just by playing on the PlayPump merry-go-round.
See if students can think of ways their designs could be used for another purpose to improve life and meet a critical need and design for the other 90%

### Teacher Reflection

Note how this lesson could be adjusted after its initial implementation. How successful were the students? What did the assessment demonstrate about the students’ learning? What skills do the students need to revisit? What instructional strategies worked and what made them successful? What will you change the next time you use this lesson? Why?

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