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Playing with your playground


School-children will soon be able to transform and re-invent their playground environments thanks to NESTA (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) – the organization that champions UK innovation and creativity. NESTA has invested £200,000 in the development of the Experimental Playground Kit, brainchild of artist organisation, ‘Snug and Outdoor’.

NESTA’s support will enable Snug and Outdoor to develop their kit – a set of flexible building materials – that will give teachers and children the ability to change their playground. They will work in close collaboration with design graduates from the Design Laboratory at Central St Martins College of Arts and Design, as well as teachers from the Institute of Education.

Hattie Coppard, Director of Snug and Outdoor, explains the need for their kit: “Playgrounds are a fantastically important part of schools throughout the country, but for so many, they can be bleak and boring. There’s just too little for the children to do. I find it heart breaking how many schools contact us wanting help with ideas to improve their playground.”

Snug and Outdoor have established a reputation for creating a series of radical, eye-catching, public art commissions across the country (including an eight-ton sheep in Maidstone made entirely of flowers). All their pieces transformed their surroundings, physically reflecting the communities who lived in them.

In March 2000, Snug and Outdoor were commissioned by the Hackney Wick Public art Programme to redesign the playground of Daubeney School which has since gone on to win a design award*. Having worked in several schools in inner city areas, Hattie knew she had to come up with a way of transforming the playground that would make sense to the children who used it. The result was the permanent Experimental Playground.

They found that the impact of the kit was widespread, even filtering through to the classroom: “We found that particularly for less academic children, working in this way really cemented what they were learning,” Hattie says. “When children work in three dimensions, they can understand all sorts of things they’ve been doing in class.”

Sarah Maher from NESTA’s Learning Programme, adds: “We are always on the look out for projects that test and develop imaginative approaches to a whole range of learning experiences. Snug and Outdoor have come up with a highly innovative solution to involving young people in the design of an environment that they spend so much of their time in!”

NESTA’s award will enable Snug and Outdoor to develop the Experimental Playground Kit in the hope of producing a commercially affordable design that schools all around the UK will be able to use.

Hannah Daws | alfa
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