Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Goodbye 2014 and Hello 2015!

By Morgan

It's time to say so long to another year - and what a year it had been!  Thank you, everyone, for your help in making new adventures possible for children all around the world, whether you lead a pop-up adventure playground, helped fund our tour, or joined participants from around the world on the Playworker Development Course!

We've reflected on how playwork can infiltrate through the rest of your life, and shared stories from our own practice.  We've taught new playworker students around the world, learning a lot in the process, and put out a beautiful little publication on Pop-Up Play Shops!  Heck, we even found time to go to the beach!

Independent organizers around the world have got in touch to access information and support.  They've shared stories of their events here - pop-ups in New HavenSeattle and Brooklyn.

This year began with a phenomenal adventure - our cross-country tour.  It was an extraordinary time. Thank you thank you thank you!  We're proud to say that the book from that experience is on its way, and you can preorder it by emailing us.

Late December is always a good time to reflect and to sum up, to take time to feel grateful and to reach out and reconnect with friends.  It's a great time to think up new bright dreams that we might hold for the year to come.  We're thrilled to say that 2015 begins with another road trip adventure, this time in Australia!

Wishing all of you a peaceful, playful year to come.


Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Come and They Will Build It: Guest Writer

By Alexander Khost

Pop-Ups friend Alexander Khost is a parent, educator, painter, and web developer living in Brooklyn, NY with his two children, James and Oliver and his partner, Amanda. Alex has been active in mutual respect, child-led learning environments in various ways, including having founded a democratic free school. His new found love of child-led play has him enthusiastically studying to be a playworker in anticipation of a Brooklyn-based adventure playground soon to come…


I biked down the bitter cold streets of Red Hook, Brooklyn early one December morning with a trailer hitch filled with massive sheets of cardboard. An elementary school music teacher had answered my Freecycle request for large cardboard with great advice that I followed, “go to [a large furniture warehouse], people discard big sheets of cardboard there all of the time.” Obtaining these oversized sheets of cardboard was the crucial first step in holding a very first Pop-Up Adventure Play Day that following weekend.

A few months earlier my friend and project counterpart, artist and interventionist Eve Mosher and I sat down at a local Brooklyn cafe and declared our intentions to do the impossible: open an adventure playground in Brooklyn, New York, and thus the play:ground project had begun. Unlike their conventional equivalents, adventure playgrounds provide children with opportunity to, as Dr Fraser Brown, Professor of Playwork at Leeds Metropolitan University put it, be “in control of their own play places.” They provide children with the opportunity to make their own decisions about their play activity and just as importantly, allow them to take earnest risks in their play, a crucial part of development that sadly has been all but eradicated from childrearing in recent years.

Somewhere on our journey to open an adventure playground, Eve and I were fortunate enough to e-meet Suzanna Law and Morgan Leichter-Saxby the brilliant minds behind Pop-Up Adventure Play, who have since then helped us immensely with so many aspects of our complicated proposition, such as providing contacts in the New York world of children’s rights and giving us advice from their years of experience in holding Pop-Up Adventure Play Days.


These one day events provide opportunities for a community to experience the joys of child-led play using “loose parts,” a key element behind adventure play, including any material that can be taken apart, redesigned, moved or easily carried by a child such as cardboard, string, fabric, dirt, and sticks. And perhaps most importantly for us at this stage in our adventure playground plans, a Pop-Up Play Day also gave us the initial opportunity to introduce this idea to the Brooklyn community where we are interested in a permanent site in the future. It helped us in opening a dialogue and allowing the neighborhood, young and old, to be a principal part of the conversation from the start.

The twenty or so children who showed up for our first Pop-Up Adventure Play Day in Brower Park last week barely swam to surface, deep from within the oceans of their imagination, showing face to the adults only when they requested another cup of hot chocolate or tea from the park bench thermoses we provided. Despite the mostly gray, chilly December weather, amazingly they arrived and began to play with certainty. I jokingly thought to myself that the Field of Dreams had it backwards, the saying should be, “Come and they will build it,” and build they did indeed. Over a four hour period roughly a dozen structures or play constructions were made, mostly from children’s hands (with the periodic request for an adult to put up a wall, cut out a window or carry a big box to another part of the playground). I was witness to slides, forts, huts, sword fights, a fire house, various murals, and something that looked like an inspiration from a piece of art by Christo and Jeanne-Claude.


Children’s enthusiasm and openness to play freely when the opportunity arises never ceases to astound me. The diverse group of children of all backgrounds and ages who had never met before were quickly remarking in their collaboratively built fire house, “Come on, quickly, get in the fire truck!” and in their castles, “I’m a dragon, but don’t worry, I won’t eat you!” Perhaps what perpetually surprises me over and over again in such situations is how simple it is to provide children with this opportunity and how sincerely they smile while deep in this form of child-led play. Not once did my own children come up to me asking when we were leaving, complaining that they were bored or did not know what to do. In fact, I watched them play in the cold the entire time and had to plead with my eight year old to get off his cardboard box (“house”) that he sat on in protest when it was time for clean up. I couldn’t blame him!

Even if one puts aside all of the research that points to how crucial this form of play is for children’s development, there still remains the simple, sincere fact that no store bought toy or adult-led activity has ever brought such joy to my children. For that reason alone I cannot wait until our next Pop-Up Adventure Play Day.


To find out more about this Alex and his Adventure Playground plans, please visit their Facebook Page. To host your own Pop-Up Adventure Playground, get in touch with us!

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Pop-Up Friends in the UK and Australia

By Morgan

What will you be doing, on the 17th May?

In case you haven't heard, that's the National Children's Day in the UK.  Their theme this year is "the Science and Magic of Play" and we are proud sponsors of it.  So, the UK has a long tradition of playwork and of celebrating National Play Day (6th August, mark your calendars now) but this is a little different.  The UN established National Children's Day in 1954 but the UK didn't start celebrating it until 2013.  At a point when many groups have suffered under the turning tides of funding and battened their hatches, this new celebration is a great way to keep a focus on play, and advocacy.

It's fitting that we're connecting to the world play scene in this small way, because in February and March we'll be heading off again - this time, to Australia!  After the success of our last roadtrip, Malarkey have invited us to start a new adventure with them in Melbourne with new hosts added to our journey every day.  You can find more information on them here, and stay posted as the tour develops!

Don't forget to sign up to our mailing list to receive our Pop-Ups in your Inbox newsletter. There are also loads of resources and information on our website www.popupadventureplay.org.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Paradoxes of Play

By Morgan

Anyone who's spent much time playing with children has had practice believing two seemingly-contradictory things simultaneously. This is a stick, but also a sword for killing zombies. This is a striped grey rock, but it's also a prized treasure. There are a few more that we're getting very accustomed to here at Pop-Up Adventure Play, and they're all to do with playwork.

We've spent years now disseminating the ideas of playwork for broad application – delivering resource packs that cover an 'introductory' level of this approach for one-off pop-up adventure playgrounds, and delivering workshops to help professionals weave play support into their homes, their classrooms, their gymnasiums.

Playwork approaches can be applied by anyone, we say. You can start with basic materials, even with the forgotten contents of your own closets. You can start with five minutes. You can start by returning a smile. This is true. We are proud to work towards a world where all adults understand the the absolute basics of playwork, where children are seen to be people and their right to play recognized. But it's also true that it takes much more than this to 'be' a playworker.

Ours is a field with decades of experience, rich with theory and the stories shared by colleagues. We've years of practice to draw upon, including lessons learned from the powerful relationships with children that can only come with time. Playwork is a profession, and for us professionalism is also intensely personal. It requires us to reflect deeply on our own biases, our needs and fears, and all that would be more comfortable to ignore.

Playwork can be intuitive, we say, and that's true. Sometimes a wordless sense of mood is our best guide.

Playwork requires training, practice and reflection. That is also true. Sometimes our assumptions blind us to the experiences of others, and those assumptions take effort to unpack.

Play is an instinct, predating our ability to use language. But the vocabulary playwork gives us, including terms such as cue and frame and cycle, are tools to study and communicate with one another. Play and playwork are filled with paradoxes.

We promote the model of pop-up adventure playgrounds because they are easy. They introduce themes of risk and freedom in ways that are highly accessible. We've found that having a quantity of loose parts and a family environment means that these events will often seem to run themselves – lots of stuff means lots of possibility. Using recycled materials and junk allows people doing playwork for the first time to say 'yes' and really mean it. Gathering materials and publicizing events take time and effort, so we encourage organizers to make things as easy on themselves as possible. Bring only as much as you can fit in your car, we say. Enlist your friends to help with clean up. Take time to enjoy it all. Tell us all about it, afterwards.

Pop-Up Adventure Playground at the Cooperative Academy in April 2013.

They tell us that it was "an amazing experience" and that "this is wonderful". They say that they now want to do more – more events, more programming. Maybe grow a fixed adventure playground, one day? The bug for further study, deeper practice has caught us too – both Suzanna and myself are working towards our playwork PhDs.

Play can last a moment, and that moment can last forever. An event can be a one-off, and the start of something huge. That's where further training comes in. Over time, as those relationships with children and adults develop you start to need that additional context and information, conversations with colleagues, support for your own reflection. We say that no playworker should be in isolation, and that's why every student on our Playworker Development Course is given their own tutor who provides individual feedback and guidance throughout. That's also why we encourage students to share their stories in our private online forum, to talk one another through the process of becoming a playworker. It's a profound shift, because while playwork is a profession it is also a vocation, a way of being in the world that can permeate your whole life.

To find out more about our Playworker Development Course, please click here. If you want to learn more about Pop-Up Adventure Play, just visit our website on www.popupadventureplay.org

Wednesday, 29 October 2014


By Morgan

Over the last few years, you've seen us grow. You've read about the projects we've done (here, here and here) and seen guest posts highlighting the work of independent pop-up adventure playground organizers around the world.  Perhaps you've been moved to create your own pop-up adventure playground.  It's been a busy, thrilling time, and it seems clear now that the momentum for this new adventure play movement is growing daily.  This momentum really became clear to us last spring, on our 11,000 mile tour around the USA.

It was a busy and fascinating two months spent delivering workshops and playing out in parks, parking lots and schools.  Hosts in 16 towns from Massachusetts to California, Texas to Ohio showed us their sites, fed us at their kitchen tables, and shared stories about their work making positive changes in children's lives.

Again and again, people have asked us when the book was coming out.  People asked for something tangible and glossy to showcase the beauty of play, something full of persuasive detail to wave at skeptics during meetings.  People around the country all wanted the same thing – to learn more about other people doing thoughtful, dedicated work in support of play, to gain a sense of this movement that we all feel growing each day. So that's what we're providing.

The New Adventure Play Movement: USA is coming out this winter, and will be PACKED with images, interviews and anecdotes chosen to make any reader laugh through their tears.  There are exclusive interviews with Dr. Peter Gray (author of Free to Learn), and Joan Almon of the Alliance for Childhood.  You'll hear from people in all stages of adventure playground creation - from those delivering pop-ups to those with fixed and established sites.  Teachers, children's museums staff, parents and more are supporting children's free, risky, adventurous play from coast to coast, and sharing their experiences with you.  We're also including lots of resources to help you on your own journey, building community around play in your neighborhood... and maybe starting adventure playground of your own.

Jump on our mailing list here, and find out more about the other members of this new adventure playground movement.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Reflections from the PDC: "Do you want to play hide and seek?"

By Zan

We can't quite believe it, but the Playworker Development Course has been going for over a year! Our course aims to provide tools to play advocates, and gives a chance to use the playwork approach. Since the start of the course, we have worked with over 60 students from all over the world. 

Here is a story shared by one of our students in the fourth cohort:
"I was thinking about play the other day while waiting for my lunch at a restaurant. Well, actually I was thinking about how easily kids seem to make friends and how play is a part of that. I was sitting in the restaurant alone and it occurred to me that the restaurant would be a fantastic place to play hide and seek. There were so many dark corners, tables, benches, booths, and half walls that would make excellent hiding places. There were a few other customers in the restaurant and some of them were by themselves. I was imagining what it would be like if we were all more like children and started a big game of hide and seek while waiting for our food. When my waitress did bring my lunch, I meant to say, “Thank you,” but I was so into my thoughts of hide and seek that I accidently said, “Do you want to play hide and seek?” I’m sure she thought I was completely nuts, but if we had been two kids playing that would have been a perfectly acceptable thing to say."  Chelsey Bahe, Assignment 11, PDC - also published in Ip Dip on 17th October 2014

I love this little reflection, and I'll be honest, I'm often in that position where I want to invite someone to have some fun, but am afraid what people might say in response to my question. But why should it be a problem? If Frozen taught us nothing else this year, it would be that the simple question of "Do you want to build a snowman?" should be responded to because invitations to play are harder to issue when you get older, and pretty disheartening when rejected.

So... do you want to play hide and seek? I'll count to 10 slowly.... 1... 2... 3...

Friday, 5 September 2014

Pop-Up Adventure Fun Seattle: Guest Writer

By Sara Mirabito

Sara left an urgent message on our guest book a couple of weeks ago when she found out that she was helping to run a Pop-Up Adventure Playground for Hopscotch CD festival. She had never heard of Pop-Ups before and needed a little help. After we talked through the process on Skype and provided her some hints and tips for the day and she was away! We're really thankful that Sara took some time out to reflect on her day for us.

At the end of the day huge boxes were scattered across the park. It looked like a village of cardboard boxes draped with wild fabric and scraps of wrapping paper. There were markers and bags littered about the lawn It was a mess. All clear signs the 2014 Pop-Up Adventure Playground was a success.

The Playground was one of many featured events at the second annual Hopscotch CD festival. The festival's focal point was a nearly 3 mile long hopscotch track.  Volunteers had spent the previous days painting sidewalks with chalk.  The sidewalks ran along streets lined with homes and businesses in Seattle's Central District neighborhood. Along the way hopscotchers and walkers could stop at the myriad of lemonade stands and yard sales lining the path. A few librarians from the public library  towed cart-loads of books by bike to set up an open-air library. The sisters who lead the “Girl Talk Walk,” which encourages women to walk for exercise, were recruiting new members. Toward the end of the path was a final hopscotch course where neighbors attempted, but unfortunately did not succeed, in setting the world record for the most hopscotchers on a single course. It was in an adjacent park where kids could creatively build houses, tanks, and spaceships in the Pop-up Adventure Playground. 

Children began showing up around noon. The other adult volunteers and I donned goofy hats to help make us recognizable. I was concerned a nearby air-filled bouncy house would be more attractive to kids than a bunch of old boxes, cardboard tubes and yards of fabric. I was wrong. 

Initially kids were curious but reluctant to interact. Two other volunteers and myself invited them in by asking if a big cardboard refrigerator box looked like a house or perhaps a school. The kids would gradually warm to the idea and within a few minutes they were grabbing boxes and tubes then rummaging through boxes of wrapping paper, paper bags, markers, chalk, cardboard packaging, butcher paper, fabric and other various household goods from the junk drawer. They dug and searched until they found just the right building materials. They thoughtfully constructed buildings and art projects. Some spent a few hours elaborating on their works. Occasionally they would petition an adult to cut cardboard or cloth or tape materials together. 

At the end of the day, as we deconstructed the buildings for the recycle bin, it was as if we were uncovering a wonderful archaeological site. We were delighted to discover the kids had used big pieces of chalk to color the “ceilings” and “walls.” In one room a child had written “cocina,” Spanish for kitchen, on the wall.

The Playground was a great success. As we cleaned up we realized next time we should include more cardboard tubes from the carpet store, paper towels and wrapping paper. We also realized it was good to have adult assistants standing by. Sometimes the young architects needed to be shown how to rip painters tape or help finding the right building material. 

Another wonderful outcome was getting to chat with parents. We seem to get wrapped up in our lives and not get a chance to simply chat for no reason with our neighbors.

The Pop-Up Adventure Playground will definitely be a part of next year's Hopscotch CD event  – and the neighborhood's third attempt to set the world hopscotching record. 

To run your very own Pop-Up Adventure Playground, get in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter or on our website - we can run you through the whole process and provide you with helpful hints and tips!

Monday, 4 August 2014

Pop-Up Stories from New Haven: Guest Writer

By Wendy Garcia

We're delighted to have Wendy guest write this blogpost, giving us the highlights of a Pop-Up Adventure Playground she hosted on 19th July in New Haven. Wendy approached us to help her run a Pop-Up and we provided her with guidance and resources for her event. Wendy runs Lets Take It Outside, a newly formed organisation to help promote child-directed play in New Haven. Thanks for writing this for us, Wendy!

Our Pop-Up Adventure Playground during East Shore Day was great fun for all who joined us! Kids of all ages came to create, share, build, collaborate and imagine. Many left with their creations, others left theirs for others to (re)imagine and enjoy.

I could hear parents' amazement as they would realize that their kids didn't need their guidance as they created - it was wonderful to hear one mother's surprised but impressed exclamation "Wow - it looks like you have your own agenda for this thing!" as her young daughter embarked on a child-directed creative journey that ended up lasting well over an hour.

One of my favorite moments was when another mom asked "You don't want him to cut this beautiful fabric, do you?" and I could smile and say "Absolutely! Today is all about saying Yes!" - and seeing both mom and son light up with smiles in response.

Thank you to Suzanna and Morgan at Pop-Up Adventure Play for your guidance leading up to our event; our Pop-Up Adventure Playground was hours of smiles and fun and adventure - I'm looking forward to our next one!

To run your very own Pop-Up Adventure Playground, please get in touch with us on facebook or twitter, or leave us a message on our website www.popupadventureplay.org.

Friday, 25 July 2014

A Pop-Up in My Community

By Zan

It has been some time since I hosted a Pop-Up in my own community so when my church friends approached me to help out with a cafe style event, I jumped at the idea of having a Pop-Up Adventure Playground. It's new and unfamiliar territory to these folks, but I assured them that it would be great, and I would be there to guide them every step of the way.

The doors opened at 10:30 and families trickled in to see what was happening. While the children played at the Pop-Up, the adults relaxed with a tea or coffee. Every so often, they would poke their heads into the play site to find that they weren't really needed, but enjoyed observing the play on the periphery. Here are some photos of the morning Pop-Up:

There were robots, creatively made.

There were little friends stacking little tubs.

There was a lot of small construction work, with fancy tubes.

There was a little bit of large construction too. And scissors were very popular.

This might be a robot friend - very well decorated.

There was colouring inside boxes. Because colouring inside a box is just as good as anywhere else.

And mum said it was okay, so the creations were taken home.

It was only a 2 hour session, but today's Pop-Up was super successful. I really enjoyed another opportunity to do a little playwork. The adults were pleased and slightly surprised to see children so engrossed within play, and the folks at my church were chuffed to bits (British for "very pleased") that so many people came. This could be the start of many more Pop-Ups to come! Hoorah!

If you'd like to read more from Zan, you can visit her personal blog. If you'd like to find out more about Pop-Up Adventure Play events like today's please visit the Pop-Up Adventure Play event page.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Let's Playwork

By Morgan

If you're a regular reader here, you've been hearing quite a bit about our recent US tour (blogposts here and here).  It was an amazing way for us to meet many of the people we've been corresponding with for years - independent organizers of pop-up adventure playgrounds, and students on our Playworker Development Course.

So far, we've had students from a dozen countries coming together online to read, listen, talk and explore this field together.
“This course is very complete, I want to congratulate the team for your hard work and for the happiness you transmit… I have enjoyed so much this course. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.” (Maria, Barranquilla)
Maria is a teacher in Colombia, wanting to bring more play into the classroom and recess.  Another student is a therapist in Seattle, while a third runs a youth centre in Uganda - both want to find ways to build community around play locally.  Many want to be more playful parents, prepared to advocate for better playgrounds in their children's schools and parks.  Others want to reach out from their daycare centers, community groups and museums into underserved neighborhoods beyond.  Our students are landscape gardeners, therapists, museum educators, all curious to learn more and to share stories about their lives.
“It never occurred to me play is so ancient, and it actually has people doing research on it…  I am enjoying the readings, but most of all, I am enjoying taking a course of something I am passionate about.” (Maria, Mexico City)
From diverse places around the world, we hear stories that sound remarkably familiar.  Academic pressure in Jamaica, car culture in Iran, fear of strangers in Bogota, lawsuits in Massachusetts.  Across vast differences of experience and perspective, we find people able to come together in support of play - to become playworkers.  Are you ready to be one too?

The course can be taken from anywhere in the world, so long as you have internet connection.  Carefully chosen readings draw from the best of playwork practice, while also demonstrating ways these ideas can be applied in other settings.  Each student is assigned a highly experienced playwork tutor who reads their work, comments carefully, and provides further context to help you explore your own developing needs and interests.  

Students are also linked to one another through our private online forum, where you can swap links to online videos and discuss the course so far.  All assignments encourage students to put these ideas into practice from the very beginning.  Tutors and fellow students provide the encouragement and community support necessary to develop your own style of playwork over time.

We believe that playwork offers wonderful tools to identify and push against the barriers children face to play.  But don't take our word for it!
“I so loved writing this assignment and appreciate being part of this class. I cannot tell you how inspiring this has all been, having a chance to read, reflect and knowing I am a part of something bigger. I feel like I’m riding one of those water slides that has a speed boost and your class is the boost.” (Jill, Houston, Houston, TX)
“This shared experience has provided such a strong framework for program development on so many levels and for personal/professional development for each of us.  The play sessions at HONAZ already feel different.  There is a confidence and sense of “knowing” and at the same time an intention to leave lots of space for “not knowing” and letting the great and delightful mysteries of children at play unfold.  That just feels so good.” (Elizabeth, Ithaca, NY)
We are committed to making this course available to all, regardless of financial circumstances.  Contact us for more information.

For more information on the course, please visit it's own special website. If you want to find out more about Morgan, please visit her personal blog. And of course, you can find out all about Pop-Up Adventure Play on our website www.popupadventureplay.org.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Highlights from Tour 2014

By Zan

It has been over 6 weeks since we finished our Pop-Up Adventure Play and Special Guests 2014 Tour, and I have been very careful not to constantly talk about the adventure. I really can't help it though, because the scale of our adventure, and the things we did and saw were incredible, and flashbacks of amazing highlights keep coming to me at unexpected moments.

To show you some of these amazing moments, we've put together a highlights video from the Pop-Up Adventure Playgrounds that we helped to run while we were on tour.

We still cannot thank you enough for your support, as expressed in one, two and three of our thankyou notes, but here it is again - thank you for making this possible!

If you want to hear more from Zan, please visit her personal blog. For more on the tour, visit our tour page, and for more from us, like us on Facebook or follow us on twitter!

Monday, 12 May 2014

Running Up the Down Escalator: Improving Opportunities for Play in Our City Centres

By Morgan

We used to hear a child screaming and grin at each other, knowing they were headed our way. When they arrived the child would be clawing at the straps in their pushchair, desperate to run around. The mother would drop her bag and head for the sofa, equally desperate for the chance to sit down. This was a Pop-Up Play Shop, converting an empty shopfront into an all-ages, all-abilities play setting that is completely free.

You might remember hearing about our Pop-Up Play Shop pilots in Cardiff (with Re-Create Scrap Store) and Paignton (with Play Torbay). You might have seen some of the photographs, archived here. It was an amazing experience, to fill a little neglected corner of a shopping mall with cardboard boxes, glitter paint and the extraordinary job of self-directed play.

For us, it was a reminder of how much “no” children hear in the course of an ordinary visit downtown. Stop running up the down escalator, don't touch that, get down from there – the list is endless! Instead, we offered the opportunity to do nearly anything. Yes, you can pour out that tub of conkers. Yes, you can paint on the walls. The shop had been empty for years before we came along, opening it up for people who had very few places to go. We heard so many stories.

One mother of an autistic boy told us that she'd always hated coming into town. The noises he made attracted funny looks in the bank, she said, “but here I know that it's okay. I can relax, here, and so can he.” One father who'd recently gained custody of his daughters came regularly, asking us for advice on birthday and Christmas presents. Again and again, we found that opening our doors to everybody meant that those people widely considered “hard to reach” came walking right in. We loved this pilot, and the model it offered for low-cost, high-impact play provision right in our downtowns.

As a result, we are extremely proud to announce the launch of our Pop-Up Play Shop Toolkit! Funded by Awards for All, it's packed with stories, questions and helpful tips. It can be downloaded for free here, or hardcopies from a limited print run are available for purchase.

We'd love to help more organizations start their own Pop-Up Play Shops, and to hear from anyone that's doing this already! Let's get connected and support one another!

To hear more about the Pop-Up Play Shop that we ran in Cardiff, please visit the website. There are also a couple of blog posts about it too. Don't forget to hop onto our mailing list to get Pop-Ups in Your Inbox, the newsletter from us to you - www.popupadventutreplay.org

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Pop-Ups Tour 2014: Thank You (Part 3)

By Morgan

Thank you to YOU

We've been so grateful for the opportunity to do this tour, and to be a part of this movement in support of play.  It was hard work, but also in many ways an absolute luxury to dedicate two whole months to meeting other people who are already improving opportunities for children's play, or who are curious to learn more.  We do a version of that nearly every day online, but there's nothing like seeing the faces of people as you talk and plan and play together.

We were nervous to ask for financial assistance for this project, and were very touched by the generous support we received from family, friends and contacts from around the world.  Our largest donation came from KaBOOM, who provided the match-funding that helped us reach our target.  Bernie DeKoven, author of The Well-Played Game, actually donated twice and sent us a note that said " HUZZAH FOR POPUP AND FOR THE WORLD".  How's that for encouragement? 

Once on the road, we were stunned by the reception we received from hosts. One called us "the Johnny Appleseeds of play", but we felt more like a catalyst - an excuse for them to bring people together, a spark for play and conversation. In Portland, our host (Leon of EarthPlay) told us how he'd been gathering volunteers and talking with us to train them in playwork, but was having terrible trouble finding a location.  After the workshop, a woman came up to introduce herself.  "I've never thought so seriously about play before," she said.  "But you've convinced me how important it is and I want to be involved but don't know how.  I don't have much time or money, just this piece of land..."

I'm fond of saying that holding a pop-up adventure playground is a bit like throwing a party.  Every single time I worry "what if no one comes?"  And then, when people starting arriving I fret "what if EVERYBODY comes?"  We've been a part of tiny events and huge ones, and every time what we remember afterwards are moments with individuals.  There was a little girl in Louisville who stayed for hours, in spite of the bitter cold, to build a box house and be thrown around inside a big sheet, to ride what she called "the princess trolley" up and down the cracked sidewalk.  Through all of it she kept shouting "this is the best day EVER!"

That's why this last thank you post goes to you - yes, YOU.  Whether you joined a tour stop or not, whether you were part of our crowd-sourcing team of awesomeness or not, whether this is the first time you've been to our site or the thousandth, thank you for being a part of this.  Without your support at the beginning, this tour would have stalled in our driveway.  Without your attending the events, we'd just have been standing in a field with boxes.  

Together, we're far greater than we are apart.  Together, we're a movement.

This is the third of three posts thanking everyone for being part of the Pop-Up Adventure Play Tour 2014. If you'd like to see more photos from this tour, please visit our facebook page. Sign up to our mailing list too for Pop-Ups in your Inbox! If you want to be part of next year's tour, please get in touch with suzanna@popupadventureplay.org.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Pop-Ups Tour 2014: Thank You (Part 2)

By Morgan

Playworkers make a point of going where invited.  With children this usually means waiting to be asked to join in play, rather than blundering over with our own ideas.  This tour is one extension of that idea.

We'd had emails of interest from people all over the country and suspected that linking them together as a tour would benefit everyone - lower travel costs mean more partners can be involved, offering more play for all!  And almost as soon as we made this idea public, it began to snowball (appropriate enough for the winter we'd been having).  Suzanna's original goal of 7 stops (one for each weekend) was quickly surpassed and by the end we had 16 locations. Sixteen.  

That's why this Thank You goes out, most heartily, to the hosts who made it possible by inviting us into their settings, their communities and often even their homes.  They organized lecture halls and dining rooms, projectors and dinners.  Some cooked, or gave us backs of snacks for the road.  Others hugged us tight when we said goodbye, and more than we'd expected broke into tears.  We had been invited there to talk, to teach, but we learned an enormous amount from each of them in the process.  Their warmth and dedication, their passion for play and love for their communities were astonishing. 

The Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play team at the site of their amazing new play space.

We met teachers and parents, landscape architects, museum staff, parks and recreation staff, aquatics coaches and artists - a huge diversity of people who care about play and want to do more to support it in everyday life.  Being asked to speak to these audiences was a privilege, and a sign of enormous trust on the part of the hosts.  From each of them, we learned how people in incredibly different environments were already supporting play, sneaking it in through beurocratic cracks or making impassioned arguments to authority. 

Houston, TX

Newhall, CA

Manhattan Beach, CA

But many of them admitted to having felt terribly alone.  Luckily, this was something we could help with.

We started by asking each host to create a box of scrap goodies for the next location, forming a relay of gifts that lassoed the country. It was an idea that has been received warmly, and here is a little slideshow of this cool little exchange.

We are now match-making individuals and groups interested in connecting to inspire and encourage each other. The movement is already here, already happening, but playworkers should never work in isolation. Talk to your friends, your colleagues - and of course to us! - and we'll keep growing, together.

This is the second of three thank you posts from the Pop-Up Adventure Play and Special Guests Tour 2014. You can read the first one here. It you want to see more photos from the tour, please visit the album on our facebook page. For regular updates from us, hop onto our mailing list on www.popupadventureplay.org

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Pop-Ups Tour 2014: Thank You (Part 1)

By Morgan

We were taught to write thank you notes after people had been kind to us, and one thing this tour has proven is that extraordinary kindness isn't really extraordinary after all. In fact, we met it in every stop, in every state, and before we'd even hit the road.

This is the first of our Tour Summary Thank You Posts and it goes out, only half in jest, to our car.

Oh Little Yellow Car, you were valiant!

We can't imagine that you were intended to drive nearly 11,000 miles through 28 States in two months, to trek from blizzards to desert heat and back again. Certainly not while lugging 3 people, their luggage, and a cargo box full of cardboard. People thought we were a little crazy, but you showed them! Not a cough or splutter from your engine (and we'll have the windshield replaced, that was really not your fault).

Brattleboro, VT

Even though you struggled up some of those hills, and sometimes found 75mph difficult to reach, you got us coast to coast and back again. When we hit the beach in California and ran out of you yelling, arms open to the sunset, we didn't mean anything by it. You gave us a place to lean, in the darkness of the redwoods, so that we could gaze at the stars. You drove through storms of rain and snow, with only an occasional 'check engine' light of protest. Not for nothing, in parking lots across the country you were very easy to spot.

Redwood Forest, CA

Actually, one of our favorite things was your high visibility. With those logo stickers on your doors, you announced our arrival better than we ever could. People came into workshops whispering “I don't know which people are from Pop-Ups, but I know they're here!”

Philadelphia, PA

Surprisingly roomy for one so small, you also gave us the unsurpassed game of Yellow Car FM. You gave us the cheery waves and confused stares of fellow travelers stuck in traffic, of toll booth operators and gas station attendants who were all wondering what on earth a tiny car with Vermont plates, packed with English people, was doing in their town. You gave us the opening to those conversations, and many more besides.

Middle of nowhere, OR

Thank you, Little Yellow Car. We love you.

For more photos from our adventure, please visit the tour's photo album on our Facebook page. To find out more about our work, join our mailing list on www.popupadventureplay.org. For more from Morgan, please visit her personal blog.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

On The Road 2014: Special Guest Number 3

By Morgan

We have some highly fabulous news to announce.  Are you ready? 

We have a third Special Guest - Erin Davis will be joining us in Philadelphia!

Many people have read and forwarded the recent article in the Atlantic about the Land, all about risk and joy and adventurous play.  Did you know that Erin is working on a documentary about the Land?  And that the Atlantic interviewed her all about it here?

Our Special Guests are carefully selected because they each contribute an expertise that we lack.  The first, Grant Lambie of Free Play Designs, has designed naturalistic and inclusive playgrounds across London and used beautiful images to walk audiences through the concept of slow design.  The second, Andy Hinchcliffe, is one of the managers of a childcare centre in Wyke, Bradford.  He shared stories of interactions with parents and other stakeholders, speaking eloquently of roles that an adventure playground might play in a local community over time. 

Erin Davis has been a friend of Pop-Up Adventure Play since the beginning - she was at our very first event in NYC.  Since then we've been emailing and chatting, forwarding links and occasionally even meeting in person.  She's a gifted storyteller and passionate advocate for play, and will be sharing her experiences from the filming of the Play Free Movie during the workshop at Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse on 11th April. Tickets are available here. 

Here's Erin on a rope swing in The Land when Pop-Ups Zan went to visit her. More from that visit can be found here.
Can't make it to the workshop?  Come along the next day for the free pop-up! Details of that can be found here - we look forward to seeing you there!

Team Pop-Up Adventure Play are currently on a 2 month tour around the USA. For more information on the tour, click here. Images from the tour can be found here, and for more from Morgan please click here.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

On The Road 2014: Halfway

By Morgan

Is it the halfway point already?

When we set off in our little yellow car exactly a month ago, we had a list of scheduled stops and the fervent belief that this trip might accomplish a set of very exciting things. By visiting people who'd contacted us, we were going to see the exciting projects currently supporting children's play in locations around the country. By leading workshops, we were going to share what we'd learned from playwork and help people find ways of applying those ideas in their settings, in their neighborhoods. By hosting events, we were going to open this whole process to the public and welcome everyone to play. Our special guests would share their experience and wisdom, broadening the conversations and demonstrating that it's not just Pop-Ups talking about the importance of play.

Big hopes, without a doubt, but this trip has so far exceeded them all.

We began at the Berkshire Museum, participating in their second annual Ten Days of Play. We were together at the first stop – Anna, Suzanna and Morgan – just as we will be at the last stop in Cambridge this April.

Then on to Ithaca, where we collected Grant Lambie (Free Play Designs) and toured the Anarchy Zone, collecting images to prove to future stops that you can let children in the US have hammers, nails and fires after all.

After that, we drove straight to Louisville, KY to speak and play at Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest. This is a gorgeous and extensive site (15,000 acres!), where Claude Stephens is leading the way with his Children at Play Initiative, which brings together nature and play agendas to host a great time for all.

We were getting into the rhythm of things at this point, pushing on to Houston, TX – site of an actual, living breathing adventure playground! Five years old and on the grounds of a school for children with developmental differences, this site and its dedicated lead Jill Wood push the envelope every single day.

Then, on through the desert to the great coast of CA! We stopped first in Santa Clarita where we had two days of play with the folks over at the Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play team. There is some amazing things happening in this area, so everyone should keep their eyes out for adventurous play to come!

Sadly this is where we said goodbye to Grant, returning him to his regular life. Suzanna and I stopped first at Manhattan Beach, where we'd invited by Director Mark Leyman to lead an in-house training for a very playful team of parks and recreation staff. They were so excited about free play that they started putting their training into practice that very evening, telling us all about their experiences over coffee the next morning!

After that we headed south, to San Diego aka the land of my own childhood. It was strangely poignant for me to be bringing these ideas home. I was so impressed by the dedication of Ilisa Goldman of the Civic Innovation Lab, and by her talents in gathering our most diverse audience yet. Architects, landscape architects, playground designers, educators and more! All talking about the barriers and opportunities they saw in their locations, and findings ways to collaborate for change.

I type this now from the back of our little yellow car, hurtling north through the night towards Seattle. Tomorrow we'll be hosting a pop-up/workshop and you'll hear all about it, next time.

So far, I would say that the state of play in America is far stronger than many people might believe. When I first started traveling to talk about these ideas a few years, all I heard was “we could never do that in this country”. Now people want to know “how? How can we do this here?” By showing them pictures of sites already thriving, sharing stories of triumph over fears, and connecting them with other organizers navigating similar situations, we can help them find their own answers to that all-important question.

And that's all the difference in the world.   

To hear more from the Pop-Up Adventure Play and Special Guests tour as we go, visit our Facebook page. To find out more about Morgan and her work, please visit her personal blog.