On Wednesday the 21st of June 2017, I had the privilege of joining a group of adults from Deptford Folk and Anthology in conducting a fun and interactive workshop at Sir Francis Drake Primary school. We had a clear mission, to engage over 20 children between the ages of 9-10, in creating design ideas for their local playground.
We started by introducing ourselves and the highlighting how important play was for their development and learning. We also asked the children what they liked (and disliked) about existing playgrounds surrounding their school and homes. It was clear that the young children understood factors that prevented them from playing such as the presence of too many teenagers and young adults.
Next, we took the children down memory lane, through sharing photos of how their community had changed through the history. The images portrayed how children always sought to play even when there was war and adversity. The main difference between the forms of play was the surrounding environment and the tools the children used to engage in the creative playing process.
After these initial introduction section, the children were provided paper, drawing material and inspirational images to. However, before they embarked on their 30-minute adventure, I outlined some requirements. In all the Dream Networks design programmes, we emphasise the need for designers/engineers understand the requirements (a thing that is needed or wanted), the environment, continuously listen to the communities needs and to be ready to adapt your designs in response to necessary changes in the requirements. Without an understanding of the requirements, there was a risk that their great admirable would produce design solutions that would not be safe to use and would not respond to the problem we were trying to solve. The children took note of the requirements and used them to guide their design process.
Finally, the children set off on creating 2D and 3D plans of their dream playground. I watched eagerly and excitedly as the children discussed designs together, drew images, considered how children would be able to move around the play area, considered factors that the adults had not even thought of and improved their designs in response to the inquisitive questions asked by the supervising adults. After the 15 second countdown, it was the children’s turn to present their ideas, another design practise fundamental with dream networks engineering design workshops. Each team communicated an array of well thought out designs to their classmates and adults, who responded with applause. I was impressed by the children’s passion, creativeness, sheer intelligence and willingness to stretch themselves.
Currently Deptford Folk are working with Lewisham council, to determine whether it will be possible to regenerate an existing play area in the Deptford. We hope that the initial design concepts generated by the children will encourage funders to support us in designing and building an innovate playground designed by children. Once funding and planning approval is secured, Deptford Folk work with others to conduct a detailed design consultation with the children and use these designs to inform the final playground design. I hope that this process will result in a creative, sustainably built, community tailored and safe place for all children to play.