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"Play is invaluable in returning a sense of safety, normalcy, and health." Courtney, KaBOOM! Project Manager
Q. What is Imagination Playground?
A. Imagination Playground is a rich environment of diverse materials that encourages unstructured, child-directed "free play." This playground is designed to prompt creativity and sensory exploration with a manipulable environment and "loose parts," a changing array of elements that allows children to turn their playground into a space constantly built and re-built by their imagination. Trained "play associates" are also incorporated into the design to maintain the safety and integrity of the Imagination Playground space.
Imagination Playground's Loose Parts include the concept's signature, custom-designed blue building blocks as well as a changing collection of "found parts," such as tarps, karabiner clips and traffic cones.
Q. How is Imagination Playground different than other playgrounds?
A. Imagination Playground is based around the concept of "free play," a simple but powerful idea that children should initiate and direct their own play, and should be able to manipulate their environment. The emphasis will be on interactive and creative play where sand, water, and Loose Parts combine to make this an active, dynamic, kid-centered environment.
Q. What are Imagination Playground's signature blue blocks made of?
A. They are made of cross-linked Polyethylene foam manufactured in the United States. The closed-cell foam is soft, lightweight, and waterproof. It is resistant to sun, heat, mold, mildew, corrosion and micro-organisms. These highly-durable blocks can be returned to the manufacturer to be recycled when they are no longer wanted on the playground.
Q. What roles do KaBOOM! and Rockwell Group play in Imagination Playground?
A. KaBOOM!, the national non-profit committed to bringing play back into the lives of children, will work with Rockwell Group, the internationally-recognized design firm, to bring Imagination Playground to communities across the country. Rockwell Group serves as the creative force behind the concept, while KaBOOM! will use its 14 years of experience and expertise to determine the easiest and most cost-efficient way to implement Imagination Playground in a variety of community settings.
Q. Can you explain the difference between Imagination Playground at Burling Slip and Imagination Playground in a BOX?
A. Rockwell Group designed the first site-specific Imagination Playground at Burling Slip in collaboration with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. It is located near historic South Street Seaport in Lower Manhattan. This playground will serve hundreds of children in what has become a bustling residential district.
With Imagination Playground in a BOX, Rockwell Group, in partnership with KaBOOM!, will take the unstructured free play concept of Imagination Playground at Burling Slip and make it accessible to any community around the country. The semi-mobile kit of parts features over 150 Loose Parts that can be adapted to many different sites and public spaces such as parks, child-care environments and school settings. Imagination Playground in a BOX is a scalable kit that can be customized to community needs. Large blue-and-green corrugated steel boxes open to reveal the Loose Parts that will instantly activate the surrounding space into a dynamic and evolving playspace.
Q. How do you see the Imagination Playground concept rolling out across America?
A. KaBOOM! and Rockwell Group are currently developing plans to roll out the fixed-site Imagination Playground and Imagination Playground in a BOX concepts across the country. KaBOOM! is currently conducting pilot testing at four sites in Washington, D.C., Miami and New Orleans. In addition to monitoring how Imagination Playground in a BOX affects a child's relationship with his environment, observations will also determine physical activity levels, play engagement patterns, and diversity of play types amongst the children.
Q. Can you clarify the role of the Play Associate?
A. Play Associates are individuals who facilitate play and maintain the safety and integrity of the Imagination Playground space. They have been trained to ensure the safety of the children at play, to clean and care for the Loose Parts, as well as develop ways to inspire the children without interference or direction. We envision Play Associates as professionals, like teachers or child care providers, who have specialized training in facilitating children's play. The addition of Play Associates to the Imagination Playground design is meant to allow children to safely explore and interact with their environment so that they have the chance to shape and direct their own play. What children do will be the result of their inherent curiosity and urge to play. Play Associates will enable children to play in the city in ways that would not be possible without a trained staff to monitor the resources.
Q. How will Imagination Playground be paid for?
A. In addition to gifting the design of the Burling Slip location to New York City, Rockwell Group is raising an endowment fund to ensure that this destination playground is properly maintained and staffed for New Yorkers, visitors, and their families, to enjoy for decades to come. KaBOOM! is currently developing a fundraising model to bring Imagination Playground to communities throughout the nation.
As part of a continuing commitment to bring play to children everywhere, Rockwell Group and KaBOOM! have partnered to bring Imagination Playground to communities everywhere across the country.