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Parks and Parts

Early STEM Award 2022 – TAS Winner

Bagdad Education and Care

This project took its inspiration from our local council’s plan to upgrade the public playground next to our service. The council invited children to share their thoughts on what they wanted to see in a playground, and we assisted the children in obtaining submission forms. As part of their submission process, the children drew pictures of their playground ideas and then verbally explained their drawings to educators. Educators transcribed their ideas onto each child’s submission form. 

Some children suggested improvements such as better swings, water sprayers, bike tracks, boats, and water slides. Educators posed questions about the details of these ideas and provided craft materials as provocations. They made loose parts and materials available to the children during discussions about their ideas, which encouraged some children to start constructing 3D models to illustrate their concepts even further. 

The children revisited and expanded on their ideas over the course of several months. During these experiences, children selected small loose parts and craft materials, like pipe-cleaners, blu-tac, playdough, tape, and straws. They used these materials to create small models of playground equipment, such as swing sets and monkey bars. 

However, it became evident that there weren’t enough materials for the children to create larger 3D models, and some children seemed frustrated. To address this, we took the children to visit the local Recovery (Tip) Shop to purchase the materials they felt they needed for their creations. They bought items like piping (agricultural, plumbing, aquarium), ropes, palings, cable wheels, crates, plastic parts, and baskets. With these materials, they were able to construct full-scale swings, water slides, and water sprayers made from balloons and piping. 

Many of the children’s hypotheses were expressed as they arrived at each stage, such as ‘how can we get the water out of the pipe?’. One child shared the assumption that a larger pipe would lead to a larger water flow, but later observed that the larger pipe in fact led to a slower flow, which we documented on video. With our yard filled with various recycled objects, possibilities seemed endless, leading children of all ages to reimagine and repurpose them into usable structures. 

This project proved popular across all age groups including children from OSHC. A seven-year-old sibling of a younger child observed attempts at creating a ‘desktop’ pipe cleaner swing set model and then proceeded to create a full-scale swing from the loose parts he found, including rope and a plumbing pipe for a seat. He was then able to use it as a swing for himself!

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