play / 2014

SCV Adventure Play Pop-ups and Park Projects

SCV Adventure Play Pop-ups and Park Projects

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by SCV Adventure Play Foundation

@SCVAdvPlay wants to open a permanent adventure playground space in Val Verde and expand our popups for all of LA! #play4everyone

Please describe yourself.

Proposed collaboration (we want to work with partners!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

SCV Adventure Play plans to expand its pop-up events and permanent adventure playground to offer our unique play approach to all.

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • South LA
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South Bay
  • Westside
  • Santa Clarita Valley

What is your idea/project in more detail?

The Eureka Villa Project and SCV Adventure Play is comprised of several converging ideas. First, to hold pop-up adventure playgrounds at various community events, schools, group gatherings, etc. to build awareness of and provide an outlet for free play to all. Second, to create a permanent play and gathering space where individuals of all ages can play, learn about playwork and be involved with their community.

The unifying idea is the premise behind an Adventure Playground which is a space where play is self-directed and enhanced by the presence of loose parts (in a permanent space would be wood, nails, tools, and recycled materials), and facilitated by playworkers, professionals trained to facilitate play and analyze risk benefits.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

We are working within three start-up phases. Phase 1 consists of holding pop-up adventure playgrounds in the Santa Clarita Valley for awareness building of self-directed play, connecting with the community, finding partners who support our mission, marketing our initiative, and to purchase property for a future permanent adventure playground and play education site.

Since March of 2014 we have been holding pop-ups on a regular basis in the Santa Clarita Valley in partnership with the City of Santa Clarita, The Art Tree, and Pop-up Adventure Play’s U.S. tour. The pop-ups usually consist of; 2 to 3 devoted playworkers, a small space, loads of boxes, string, fabric, used or recycled materials and a few hours allowing all who come by to make, create, and invent.

In February 2014 Jeremiah Dockray and Erica Larsen, founders of SCV Adventure Play, purchased a nearly 2 acre, 30 year abandoned, park in Val Verde, CA as the future site of “Eureka Villa” a permanent adventure play space and hopeful hub of study and education in the movement to offer non-product based activity for children and adults alike.

We are now entering phase 2 which is devoted to developing the park and expanding the pop-ups within and beyond Santa Clarita Valley. Regarding the park, we are researching and quoting various improvements for it to be made available for the public. This includes arborist assessments on the nearly 30 various types of trees on the property, re-fencing the parameter, brush clearance, and hopefully water setup and power accessibility. Once this cleanup is done, we will hold a soft opening of the Adventure Playground. For the Pop-ups, this includes the purchase of a “Pop-up Truck”, a box truck to be used as storage and transportation (currently all materials are stored in the founder’s garage and is loaded and unloaded into their cars for each pop-up).

Phase 3 is to formalize the park and launch a playwork program. In this phase, our goal is to develop the space as a community, build bathroom facilities on the property, begin an educational program specializing in playworking, and open fully to the public as an adventure playground and gathering space. We were advised by the Pop-up Adventure Play group and Grant Lambie, a play space developer, to keep our evolution organic and allow the community to develop the space as much as possible which means this phase is largely determined by the community surrounding and engaging with the space.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to PLAY today? In 2050?

Both children and adults today suffer from a severe lack of play, access to nature, measured risk, and free space both geographically and mentally. Many studies show how a lack of play can cause obesity, depression, and stunted social skills. Playgrounds and parks today only partially fill these needs, as they are often geared only toward gross motor play(swings, slides, or monkey bars), or structured play (baseball, soccer, etc.) These things are not allowing (young) people to fully explore their environment on their own terms, and at their own speed. Our lives are commonly scheduled from dawn until dusk leaving free time to play absent.

What we can do to make LA the best place to play is provide a space and materials where people can actually engage in play that stretches their abilities, gives them exercise, challenges their problem-solving skills, and encourages socialization. One of the best things about adventure play is that it is ever evolving to the needs of the participants, as projects are created and destroyed, as materials come and go within the landscape, and interests and focus change. Our playwork education program will continually support free play and its benefits by outfitting others with the ability to facilitate more free-play events in numerous communities and homes in L.A. County with the goal of improving the quality of life through play for all.

In addition, our outreach for play will continue to look for places where we can help facilitate and expand play opportunities in LA County. Our philosophy is that play is a human right, a social issue rather than only a parenting one.

Our Adventure Playground will be aimed at providing to our immediate community (A small working class community) as well as outside groups and schools, and as a place to do play-related research with educators and play advocates across the county, state and nation.

In the future, the upcoming Newhall Ranch housing expansion will be creeping up toward our space (off the 126 freeway toward Ventura), allowing a place for new occupants to grow into, as well as our commitment to cultivating the careers of future playworkers, who would be employed at the Adventure Playground to facilitate play and safety. We hope that this combined with our continued outreach will allow for similar spaces to be developed around LA County.

Whom will your project benefit?

Overall, this project will benefit not only kids and adults but specifically kids on the spectrum, senior citizens, disabled children, and those who have limited to no access to nature and wild outdoor space.

Phase 1-3: Neighborhood kids and families around the Santa Clarita Valley- Kids and families will benefit from additional space to meet in the community and play freely without restriction. Our goal is to have the playground open and staffed in any instance it would be needed; after school, weekends, and holidays for any kids in the area. It will also create jobs for those hired as playworkers, play educators, and maintenance crews (if needed). This will be in addition to our pop-up events and outreach, which will continue to travel to where play is needed. Our outreach is looking to expand into schools, apartment complexes, nature events, and parks that can accommodate our free pop-up events.

Phase 2-3: Northern Los Angeles County with the potential of entire county. We hope that in time there will be others from outside our immediate community that will come by to see what adventure play can be and take back ideas to their own neighborhoods. Our hope is that we can be a destination for field trips, school projects, parties, and educators interested in free play concepts. With that, we want to work on chartering buses to bring individuals to us. We also hope to have events that will include curious adults that want to learn things like woodworking or structure building, and give them a space to learn and share skills that can enhance their well-being, as well as an inter-generational opportunity for both young and old.

Phase 2-3: Los Angeles County and beyond. We also hope to contribute to the growing network of Adventure Playgrounds that are currently resurging in the USA, and bring an advocacy for play to a policy level. A place where people can be guaranteed play possibilities in school and neighborhood, and a network of spaces across the country that can consult, experiment, and share experiences with each other.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

Our confirmed collaborators are and have been the Pop-up Adventure Play based in the UK, The ArTree, a local community arts center, The City of Santa Clarita, A Little Patch of Earth Preschool, CalArts Alumni Santa Clarita Chapter, Appliances Unlimited, Newhall Paint, and the Arbor Day Festival. We also have confirmed collaborators from other adventure playgrounds in America and Europe including Rusty Keeler from the Anarchy Zone in Ithaca, NY, Jill Wood, Director of Adventure Playground at The Parish School in Houston, TX, Andy Hinchcliffe from Wyke Community and Childrens Centre in Bradford, United Kingdom and Grant Lambie, founder of Free Play based in London.

Future possible collaborators include Santa Clarita Valley International (K-12 tuition-free public charter school), Val Verde YAL program, Parks and Recreation, Local Fire Fighters, Boy and Girl Scout troupes, Home school groups, PTAs, CalArts, CalArts Community Arts Partnership, College of the Canyons, Albert Einstein Academy, local K-12 schools, Adult Education Programs, Other Community arts programs, Holistic Mom’s Chapters, Arbor Day Nature Explore Program, Community Gardens of Santa Clarita, The Alliance for Childhood, and IPA International Play Association

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Play” metrics?

  • Access to open space and park facilities
  • Number of children enrolled in afterschool programs
  • Per capita crime rates
  • Percentage of residents that feel safe in their neighborhoods
  • Residents within 1⁄4 mile of a park (Dream Metric)
  • Number of residents with easy access to a “vibrant” park (Dream Metric)
  • Number of parks with intergenerational play opportunities (Dream Metric)
  • Number (and quality) of informal spaces for play (Dream Metric)

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

-Access to open space and park facilities - We will be offering our 2 acres of park space to the community, try to bus individuals out to the site, as well as advocating for more in the future.

-Number of children enrolled in afterschool programs - We plan to start an after school program that allows children space to play and relax and garner a working relationship with local schools to implement this space as part of academic curriculum.

-Per capita crime rates - It’s a simple formula that when children aren’t bored they are less likely to engage in delinquent activity. We want children to take ownership over this park as their own creation, not just a place to kill time.

-Percentage of residents that feel safe in their neighborhoods - We want our neighborhood to see and interact with each other more often, and events at the playground and in the community can engender a feeling of safety.

-Residents within 1⁄4 mile of a park (Dream Metric) - This park will add more residents in range of a park, both immediately and as more housing is built in future developments.

-Number of residents with easy access to a “vibrant” park (Dream Metric) - All of the above and an open gate policy with staff members adding to an inviting environment.

-Number of parks with intergenerational play opportunities (Dream Metric) - We encourage all ages to play in this park to encourage empathy and shared skills among older and younger participants.

-Number (and quality) of informal spaces for play (Dream Metric) - Adventure Playgrounds are a definition of informal spaces to play. Our pop-ups and parks are devoted to adapting to those who enter and engage the space. Our pop-ups will allow us to increase the number of such spaces in a temporary fashion with the encouragement for others to start-up.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

Bi-weekly team meetings: Both our pop-ups and Adventure Playground teams will meet to discuss observations on how to best solve problems and make changes to our sites both temporary and permanent. Discussion, observation, and reflection are essential to connect with each other and the playground participants in a meaningful assessment of their play needs.

Twice annual community and partner review: To build a strong relationship with the community and other partners, we will hold open meetings twice a year to address ideas and concerns about how our goals are being met and community play needs tended to, as well as ideas on expanding to new areas where we can provide free play space.

Monitoring data and methods: Our staff will be encouraged to use photographs, observations of play, journals of their experience and thoughts, and informal recorded interviews for evaluation as well as documentary purposes. We will also compare our information on visitor demographics with the Val Verde area more generally, to ensure that we are reaching a broad cross-section of local communities.

Attendance Sheets: Attendance at the park and or “how you heard about Eureka Villa” data will be tracked via attendance sheets collected at each open day and compiled, analyzed and evaluated every month.

Surveys or Questionnaires and Follow-ups: To make sure we are reaching and engaging communities at the park and pop-ups we will perform online surveys and questionnaires once or twice a year to continue a dialogue about how to improve our practice. This will also include follow-ups after our pop-up or park events with organizers to specify areas we need to improve while they are still fresh in our minds.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

Lesson number one: We need risky play in our lives. When people are encouraged to take risks, think outside of the box, explore, create, destroy and team up, they not only create amazing things, but strengthen their own mental and physical well-being and that of the community. Studies show again and again that measured risk when we are young can have multiple short and long-term benefits, and our goal is to encourage this.

Lesson number two: Space, time and permission are slowly being extracted from the American lifestyle. This has debilitating effects on our physical and mental health. Our adult lives are increasingly demanding, over-scheduled, and compartmentalized. Our children’s lives are sometimes worse, being over-scheduled by forces outside their control, not allowing an organic community to grow around them. Eureka Villa and SCV Adventure Play strive to give back a small piece of these things, and encourage it to grow in our homes and communities. If we do not allow ourselves and others to “be” in the present and inspired by our surroundings our drive to invent, question, solve, and play…all existing on our primal level of humanness will tarnish who we are and what we are capable, or believe we are capable, of doing.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

We have already seen the level of support and love others have shown to us at our pop-up playgrounds and believe this is truly just the beginning. With our existing partnerships, we have a solid foundation to start evolving both the Eureka Villa project and SCV Adventure Play.

We have relationships with local businesses who regularly donate boxes, art supplies, and volunteers for our monthly popups as well as collaborations with the Art Tree, a local community art center, who we continually work together to provide enriching experiences for kids, and our partnership with Pop-Up Adventure Play has been extremely beneficial in expanding our contacts and support from existing adventure playgrounds around the globe. A Little Patch of Earth Preschool has not only partnered with us to host a pop-up adventure playground but is equally passionate about reconnecting children and parents with play and we are working to create public workshops and discussion groups about the benefits of play and how to facilitate it in the home and beyond.

Currently, we have a list of around 30 volunteers to help with pop-ups and revitalizing the property, multiple parents and educators requesting playwork classes, through conversations with board and leaders there are local schools and youth organizations eager to hold pop-ups at their school or community center site and use the property as a field trip, group project, and as part of their curriculum of study. Surrounding neighbors are already utilizing the property for their own children to play as well.

As described before, we are successfully holding pop-ups but with a truck added we will be able to hold more of them throughout the year expanding our exposure and garnering more support. For Eureka Villa, there are only a few steps necessary before we can begin holding events on the property yet these steps have major financial costs. Some of the necessities are; assessing the trees on the property for safety, performing brush clearance and tree trimming based on assessment, repair and re-install the fencing around the lot, and last to install electricity, and running water on the property. We are prepared to rent portable bathrooms for any events in the first year and through donations and fundraising to add eventual permanent bathrooms.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

Resistance to the Adventure Play concept: This is a barrier of people misunderstanding what a permanent Adventure Playground does. It is common in our culture to be focused on risk management by eliminating risk from any environment children are exposed to. However adventure playgrounds gravitate around the “Risk Benefit” where respect is given to risk taking and allowing players to examine, experiment, and challenge their environment and selves. It is a place with a lot of potential danger; tree climbing, destruction, fire, nails, saws, splinters, other children with fire, nails and saws. But this is not a place for kids to go from “zero to chainsaw”, it is a place where they are able to incrementally gain the skills needed to master these tools. It is actually far riskier to have never encountered a fire and then be expected to know what to do when a fire is blazing in an uncontrolled environment. That said, an Adventure Playground doesn’t have to be all hammers and fire to be and Adventure Playground. All it needs is to meet the play of its visitors and participants. This possible barrier is something that we try to educate the public on at every pop-up event that we do, an outreach that can help calm any panic about what goes on in the play yard. It is also something that will be part of the staff training for Eureka Villa, and encouraging dialogue with those people who have concerns.

Offering Low or No-Cost Play Opportunities: As we’ve said before, play is a human right. We do not think that money should decide who gets to join in on the fun, and we are committed to making sure poverty cannot dictate the well-being of our community. So we will need to operate on flow of income which may be little or infrequent and managed through a series of fundraisers, grant proposals, charity, and donations of time, materials, and other support. It will be essential to build a strong community that can creatively navigate the ups and downs of capital.

What resources does your project need?

  • Network/relationship support
  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Infrastructure (building/space/vehicles, etc.)
  • Education/training
  • Community outreach
  • Quality improvement research