In the summer of 2007, CYE gave students at Horizons Alternative K-8 school in Boulder the opportunity to completely re-design their sandbox during a two-week “Design Camp.” Each week we worked with 12 to 13 children ranging in age from 6- to 11-years old and taught them about the design process, including basic design principles such as incorporating symmetry, creating gateways, and framing views.
The design camp followed on the heels of a semester-long course titled “Participatory Community Planning: Designing Healthy Communities with Children and Youth.” During the spring semester, we worked with all of the students at Horizons to brainstorm design ideas for an outdoor classroom, conduct a preliminary site analysis to determine the existing conditions, prioritize ideas and issues, and come up with conceptual designs for different areas of the school grounds.
During Design Camp, we facilitated an evaluation of their existing sand box, a “boring” rectangle with wood that “causes splinters.” After a number of drawing activities and informal conversations, students decided on a dragonfly-shaped sandbox. Other elements of the chosen design included a maze leading into the sandbox, a tunnel leading out, a small playhouse in one wing, and large boulders for seating areas.
After completion, the number of children using the re-designed play areas during recess greatly increased and so did the number of toys they brought from their homes for play in their new sandbox. During the weekend and after-school hours, the area is also used by children from the surrounding neighborhood.
Design camp was planned and implemented by Debra Flanders Cushing. It was partially funded by a grant from the Institute for Ethical and Civic Engagement at CU-Boulder.
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