What Should a Playground Look Like?

By Lauren Plotkin, December 4, 2010

Grade Level

  • PreK-1


  • School Design

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts
  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

90 minutes for classroom activities


Students are learning about themselves and classmates within the context of school.  Students have talked about personal interests and conducted interviews with fellow classmates to learn their peers' interests.  The theme of social studies this week is "How Do We Get Along in School?"  Students will design their own playground that will reflect their interests and allow for opportunities to share, take turns, listen, and talk.  

National Standards


Students will:

  • reflect on their own interests
  • listen and collaborate with their peers about their interests during recess
  • use fine motor skills to create sculptural representations of their ideas
  • use expressive language skills to share what they have created with classmates







  • tracing paper
  • tape
  • markers
  • masking tape
  • paper towel rolls
  • toilet paper rolls
  • newspaper
  • scissors
  • lined paper with sentence starters
  • pencils


  • share: to partake of, use, experience, occupy, or enjoy with others
  • cooperation: the action of cooperating; joint effort toward a common goal


Lesson 1: Brainstorming

1. Students will look at a picture of the empty play yard on the SmartBoard.  The class will list how they currently use the play yard during recess. The class will list what they would like to improve about the play yard.

2. Have the class brainstorm how they would like to use the play yard in the future.

3. Next the students will each individually sketch their ideas for how to improve the play yard.  Each student will be given an 8” x 11” photo of the play yard with a piece of tracing paper taped over it.  Students will be instructed to design their ideal play yard that can accommodate thirty students during recess.

4. Students will have ten minutes to sketch their dream play yard.

5. Presentation: Students will each share and explain their picture to the class.  Students will use their pictures to address the answers they gave about how they play and what they want to see built in the play yard.

Lesson 2:

1. Teacher will put students in pairs.

2. Students will be given back the pictures they drew during Lesson 1.

3. In their pairs, students will explain their pictures to one another.

4. Students will then be presented with paper towel rolls, toilet paper rolls, newspaper, and masking tape.  Students will be instructed to make a model of their playground with their partner.

5. After fifteen minutes, students will present their models to the class.

6. Students will write a sentence for their models using the sentence starter: On my playground we can...


Students will work in groups of two with a teacher.  Teachers will assess communication skills, fine motor development, and generation of ideas through informal observation.  

Enrichment Extension Activities

Rather than pairing up and combining their ideas with a partner, students could be assigned “clients” from another class and design the playground of another student’s dreams.  (This would help them understand the concept of point of view and promote the development of empathy.)