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Up on Play

Childcare Issue 2


While sensory play is important for children with special needs, it helps in the development of all children. They build self-esteem, increase self control, enhance creativity, develop relationships and improve their coordination with sensory-stimulating activities. Sensory play engages their sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell, and also involves how kids move and position their bodies in space. The more they are able to engage these seven senses, the better they can make sense of the world around them and their relationship to it. Neighborhood playgrounds help facilitate sensory play. Search for local playgrounds that include standard playground fare like slides, swings and climbers, all of which engage the tactile, proprioceptive and vestibular senses. Additionally, look for spinning activities, which also engage the vestibular sense. When a child spins on an OmniSpin速 spinner, Tire Swing or any other equipment, they are providing their brain with valuable equilibrium information. Learn more about the benefits of sensory play in our infographic The five key benefits of sensory play, and contact your local Landscape Structures playground consultant for ideas on how to incorporate sensory-stimulating activity into your upcoming playground projects.


The impact of outdoor learning environments In recent years, there have been numerous research studies and articles documenting the benefits of connecting children to nature. Researchers have reported improvements in kids’ social, psychological, academic and physical development. As a result, many childcare facilities and schools have created nature-inspired playgrounds to introduce or reconnect children to the natural environment. In April 2011, Booker T. Washington Elementary School in Tampa, Fla., developed a nature-inspired outdoor learning environment to assist in the education of kids from pre-k to grade 5. And according to B.T. Washington Principal Toynita Martinez, “The outdoor classroom has been a great addition to our school. Teachers continue to incorporate it into their lesson plans. Even more, the nature-inspired equipment is great! It really helps create a unique space for our students.” The learning space incorporated AdventureScapes® Design 1 , Log Benches, the Log Crawl Tunnel, Log Balance Beam and custom Lady Bug Climbers. This mix of equipment allows students to use the space for everything. Older kids use it for a quiet reading space or tutor time, while younger kids like to explore the rocks and logs to find hidden animals, fossils and more. “The outdoor classroom concept has helped improve the behaviors of some students,” Martinez explained. “It gives them a break from sitting inside and allows them to get fresh air in order to focus for the remainder of class.” Martinez is thrilled with the outcome of the outdoor classroom, and would definitely recommend it to other facilities considering this concept. If you’d like to discuss the outdoor classroom concept with Principal Martinez, you can contact her at toynita.martinez@sdhc.k12.fl.us. You can also get step-by-step assistance in creating an outdoor learning environment from your local Landscape Structures playground consultant.


Leave it to the professionals Landscape Structures is so honored to work with childcare facilities around the world. We’re constantly learning about fun and unique projects on which you’ve worked, obstacles that you face and innovative solutions that you create to overcome challenges. That’s why we’ve created this new feature that spotlights a professional, introduces him or her, and gives you a glimpse into what projects and programs he or she has implemented. Our featured professional is Marnie Norris, director of programs at Shane’s Inspiration. Read below to learn more about Marnie, and her experience in working with children and communities. Q: How did you get involved with Shane’s Inspiration? A:I started in the non-profit world right out of college and had been consulting as both a fundraiser and program developer for a few years when I met Tiffany Harris, the cofounder and CEO of Shane’s Inspiration. The second I went to their website to learn a bit more about them, I fell in love. It was both the goal of promoting social inclusion for children with disabilities and the vehicle through which it is achieved that struck me most. Play is such a natural and intuitive activity, and a powerful way to build connections and community among children. It is the glue that can hold children together despite, sometimes, vast differences in communication, mobility and sensory processing. All kids want to play and if you support them in that, the playgrounds become outdoor classrooms where compassion can be taught. The second I met Tiffany and the team, I fell in love again. This is an incredible group of people with which I get to work. They really take care of each other and work together. And they balance family and work, which is critical in my world. Q: What have been some of your greatest achievements working with Shane’s Inspiration? A:I am proud of everything we have done collectively. This truly is a team effort, from Brad Thornton, the director of project development at Shane’s Inspiration, who fields the first inquiries on how to build these playgrounds to me on the back-end helping to launch inclusion programs in those communities. It is a dance that we are all a part of and it’s very powerful. Of course, I’m proud of the playgrounds themselves, designed by Diane Scanlan and Virginia Hatley, our former director of design. They are beautiful. But Shane’s Inspiration isn’t just a bricks and mortar mission; a community truly rises around these playgrounds, which becomes an inclusion movement. And by using the playgrounds as program launch pads, we extend that movement so much further than the grand opening. With our education program, Together, We Are Able, we reach into schools to promote awareness and understanding among the students and teachers.

Jaime Beth Slavin Park, North Hollywood, Calif.


One of the best examples of the impact of these combined elements is visible on school campuses. For the past year, we’ve worked with Los Angeles Unified School District, which is integrating special and general education campuses that share property. At certain school sites, we’ve worked with students, staff and teachers to promote ability awareness in the classroom then utilize our playgrounds as the environment where the students with and without disabilities interact—many for the very first time. Re-visiting these campuses one year later, we see them playing with each other. We see connections being built between kids and teachers, many of whom taught and learned side-by-side without any interaction. Being a part of that tangible and sustainable social change is an incredible feeling. Q: Where does your passion for inclusive play and social inclusion come from? A: Social justice and human dignity. That is what inspires me and keeps me going (and yes, some days you do need to be re-inspired to play!!!). These children have a right to be accepted as is… as children. No matter what their differences are, they have a right to be a thriving and respected part of their community. But for many reasons, fear of differences being the biggest factor, they are rejected and excluded. I’ve seen that rejection happen by their peers but more painfully by the adults, who are steeped quite often in misunderstanding. I love the fact that we get to shift that. By creating awareness and changing perceptions, we get to open eyes and hopefully create an environment where all these kids are honored—as is. Someday, hopefully, these playgrounds won’t be considered different. Inclusion will be the norm, and I’ll be out of a job!

Westside Park, Los Angeles Calif.

Q: Outside of work what are some of your personal hobbies? A: I love being with my daughter! She and I hike, spend time at the beach, cook, swim, sing. Life gets so busy that having those moments together with my family is what I love most. And I have really enjoyed traveling. We just got back from opening the first inclusive playground in Ecuador and launching our social inclusion programming. I love hearing (and attempting to speak, not always gracefully) another language and experiencing the beauty of another culture. It is immersion into so many new sights, sounds and tastes. Learn more about Shane’s Inspiration and their social inclusion programming. 4th Avenue Park, Avocado Heights, Calif.

4th Avenue Park, Avocado Heights, Calif.


Teaching students the benefits of composting The second annual Green Apple Day of Service, a day sponsored by the USGBC’s Center for Green Schools, took place on Saturday, Sept. 28. The day gave parents, teachers, students, companies and local organizations the opportunity to help

Part of the sustainability solution

transform schools into healthy, safe and productive learning environments through

Since 2008, Landscape Structures

local service projects.

has partnered with American

To celebrate Green Apple Day of Service this year, Landscape Structures partnered

Forests to plant trees to directly

with the MN Green Schools Coalition to help Delano Elementary School (DES)

offset the carbon dioxide (CO2)

improve their existing composting program. Throughout the week, DES’s media

produced in the manufacturing

teacher read “Compost Stew” to each class and they completed a fun, classroom activity. Then, on Friday, Sept. 27, volunteers from Landscape Structures, Target and DES helped students compost their lunch waste. Additionally, each student received a goodie bag including an apple. By participating in this program, DES not only helped make its students aware

of each of our playsystems and skateparks. During our partnership, we’ve donated nearly 125,000 trees—16,807

of the benefits of composting, but they were also awarded dollars to purchase

to date in 2013! Learn more

new library books with an environmental theme. Check out the video recap

about our partnership with

of the event here.

American Forests here.


Industry News Read about the latest happenings affecting early childhood professionals, and then join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+. Let us know what you think about the following topics: • Plan to expand preschool for 4-year-olds is barely bipartisan, with one GOP co-sponsor During his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama unveiled a new initiative around early childhood education. Now months later, members of Congress have unveiled legislation to help expand preschool to every 4-year-old in the country. Read more.

Calendar of Events Looking forward to seeing and celebrating with you during the following events: MARCH • JCCs North American Biennial, San Diego, Calif. • EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival, Lake Buena Vista, Fla. APRIL • National School Boards Association Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, La. • American Occupational Therapists Association Annual Conference & Expo, Baltimore, Md.

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• Banning Superhero costumes, toy guns could have a ‘negative impact on children’s development’ Some childcare facilities have banned superhero costumes, while many ban toy swords and guns claiming they encourage aggression and violence. However, one facility in the UK has warned this could have negative impacts on children’s development, particularly boys. Read more. • The link between early childhood education and PISA scores The newly released Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) results show an interesting connection between early childhood education and top-performing nations. Kris Perry, executive director of the First Five Years Fund, a nonprofit organization that advocates for comprehensive, high-quality early childhood education systems, programs and supports, explains. Read more.


Up on Play: Childcare