Marcus Veerman, an Australian teacher, arrived in Mae Sot, Thailand in 2008 to build classrooms. Instead he found the greatest need was to build playgrounds to encourage “interaction, cooperation, experimentation, and imagination” that could be found outside the “call-and-response” teaching method used for up to six hours a day in a classroom.1
Maintaining that “play is learning put into practice,” Marcus founded the not-for-profit organization Playground Ideas (formerly, Go Play!) to design and build play spaces in developing countries by using local materials, labor, and community involvement.2 Through play spaces they seek to “improve the education and wellbeing of children in under-resourced communities through training and resourcing communities to build beautiful, safe playgrounds.” Convinced that children need to play, their goal is to change the culture of education in the developing world to be more focused on the children’s needs.3
Marcus was joined by Tha Wah, a Thai builder, translator, manager, and coordinator, who assisted in building nearly 40 playgrounds over two and a half years. He continues to occasionally advise Playground Ideas while he builds playgrounds full-time for the local Thai NGO Childsdream.4
Jon Racek is director of Playground Ideas, USA, based in Bloomington, Indiana, and brings his experience in architecture and design to Playground Ideas as their Managing Director. Playground Ideas USA oversees all organizational trainings.5
Believing that the process of creating a play space can be as important as the finished playground, Playground Ideas involves community volunteers, parents, school staff, and the children in designing and building these play spaces. This inclusion paves the way for responsible ownership of the finished project and serves as a model for possible future community projects.6
Playground Ideas works with and trains local builders, welders, teachers, parents, local artists, and students in constructing play spaces made largely from sustainable local materials. They construct play equipment from recycled tires, welded metals, the fast-growing eucalpt poles, recycled timbers, and sand.7
With their years of developing their designs and building over 45 playgrounds themselves, Playground Ideas decided to share their work in playground design and research by offering their designs, resources, and building manuals through their website that can readily be used in other developing areas of the world regardless of their culture or language. They also conduct training programs around the world to work with nonprofit groups, schools, and government officials, who will commit to building 5-10 playgrounds in their countries, providing them with the needed resources and support to build the playgrounds. With this shared support, Playground Ideas is seeing their vision carried on by other groups to build more playgrounds than they could by themselves.8
- 1. “Founders Story.” Go Play! < http://www.goplayproject.org/2010/06/founders-story/ > 14 July 2011.
- 2. “Core Values.” Go Play! < http://www.goplayproject.org/2010/02/test-aboutus/ > 14 July 2011.
- 3. “About.” PlaygroundIDEAS. < http://www.playgroundideas.org/content/basic-page/about > 22 Feb. 2012.
- 4. “Our People.” Go Play! < http://www.goplayproject.org/2010/06/our-people/ > 14 July 2011.
- 5. Racek, Jon. Personal correspondence to Playground Professionals.com. 22 Feb. 2012.
- 6. Op.cit., “Core Values.”
- 7. “Sustainability.” Go Play! < http://www.goplayproject.org/2010/06/sustainability/ > 14 July 2011.
- 8. “How We Work.” Go Play! < http://www.goplayproject.org/2010/06/how-we-work/ > 7 Aug. 2011.