Welcome to the process, this project is ongoing.....

The Children Belong to the City Playground project builds on existing efforts to connect children at the Burlington Children’s Space and local outdoor spaces including the Intervale gardens and walking paths, local community garden sites, public parks and green spaces, and the city’s waterfront. The focus of this project is the development of a new playground for The Burlington Children’s Space incorporating elements from public spaces around the city that promote open ended play, physical challenges, and interest in the natural world throughout the seasons. Children, teachers, and parents will be involved in various outings to observe, play, and collect ideas. The process provides many opportunities for children, teachers and parents to share healthy activities such as neighborhood walks, visits to parks and gardens, and open ended outdoor play.

Preparing for the opening

Last Saturday we were graced with sun, crisp air, and 15 terrific volunteers who moved soil, carried concrete scraps to the dumpster, and spread 4 yards of wood chips on the new section of the playground.

From the youngest ( 2 years old) to the oldest ( 73 years young) we worked our hearts out for a few sweet hours.

All of our hard work paid off this morning when Saturday's youngest volunteers cut the construction tape that has kept children out of the work zone for three months.


The whole school took a little tour of the new space, dropping the babies off at the baby garden and moving on to test out the tree house. We rarely have every child in the school outside at the same time, but today's ribbon cutting was worth the stretch- a few groggy babies watched out the window while we tested the capacity of the tree house and confirmed it has an upstairs and a down stairs!

The Tree House Materializes

It's always a good time when someone brings a chain saw to preschool. We have all grown accustomed to looking out the windows each morning to see when B'fer and Chris will arrive and what tools they will unpack. In just a few short weeks the tree house has gone from an empty spot of ground to a beautiful structure that has captured everyone's imagination.

The tree house and infant garden have completely changed a space that used to house a broken fence and some patchy grass. It always seemed a little bit dark and under used. The peeled bark and cedar decking lighten the space and provide a perfect stage for the shadow play the afternoon light makes coming through our four locust trees. Suddenly everyone wants to be at this end of the playground.

Our feelings of elation have been mixed with sadness as we realize the process is moving much too quickly- we forgot B'fer and Chris will have to move on to another project when ours is finished. We won't be able to start the morning by watching them unpack their tools and they won't be here to see what unfold when the tree house is inhabited by the children. When we raise the money to construct the ramp for the tree house will will invite them back again.

Inspirations From The Playground Project

We're a Reggio inspired program, so our curriculum is always evolving. We want to be influenced by the world around us and the people who we see every day. Within a predictable structure, we want things to unfold in unexpected ways. The playground project has offered us the chance to see children's ideas (and the ideas of parents and teachers) move from sketches or block constructions into a life sized environment. This is inspiring- but just as inspiring has been the ongoing interaction between the children and the contractors. Each day has offered something new to watch or comment on, new tools or equipment, and some small progression of the project.

One group of preschoolers has been creating sculptures out of tape and recycled materials. Perhaps not directly influenced by the playground construction, they like to talk about art with anyone who happens by.

They are especially fond of John Marius from Champlain Metals who has been working on a proposal for later pahses of the playground project. Tomorrow they are visiting the Flemming Museum to look at work from another of their favorite artists- Cristo. Of course they will bring along some photos of their own work in case the Flemming is interested.

Another group of Preschoolers has been working hard in the construction area and keeping a close eye on the playground contractors.

A third group of preschoolers has been creating Rub Goldberg inspired "machines" using ramps, gravity, balls, marbles, and recycled materials. Their interest helped remind us that the tree house has to have an extra long ramp for accessibility and ball rolling. ( You can view the Rube Goldberg photos at Bcslunchlady.blogspot.com)

There has been no shortage of interest in ramps and tubes in the toddler rooms. The old toddlers have a perfect view out their window of the tools Chris and B'fer are using on the tree house including their chain saw.

The Infant Garden is Complete

We have jumped through all of the necessary hoops to keep our project moving. After a few nail biting visits to planning and zoning before getting the all clear for construction.

Thanks to Lindsay and our fabulous parent and community volunteers the base was laid and the site prepped for the stone wall.

Under the watchful eye of the Infant Room Teachers and Parents Charley McMartin created the circular stone wall that encloses the infant garden and grass is beginning to peek up. The lucky babies had a terrific view out their window and even ventured into the construction zone for some supervised product testing. With their feedback Charley was able to make some final adjustments and call phase one finished. We will complete the planting after the tree house construction is over.

Now, time to make way for phase two- the tree house.

We have been really busy....

On the surface our playground looks remarkably unchanged....but behind the scenes we have been busy interviewing contractors, touring the site and collecting bids. At the same time teachers at BCS have spent many long nights putting together an excellent exhibit documenting our explorations of the city with several other local early childhood programs. This idea of going out into the city and collecting ideas and inspiration is how our playground project got started more than two years ago. It is exciting to see we are still out there researching and documenting children's learning, collecting ideas and making children's learning visible. Please try to check out the exhibit at the Metropolitan Gallery from now until August 4 any time city Hall is open ( this does not usually include Saturdays). In conjunction with the exhibit, photos are also on display at 18 local businesses, see if you can spot any familiar faces in windows around town.

After many meetings and long conversations we have our first contractor- ready to begin on the infant garden in a few short weeks!

The selection process was long, but fun. Jon and Danielle were interested in feedback about how the contractors would approach the construction and if they had questions about details of the design. The BCSers were, as always , interested in the process. We wanted to know what kind of experience a contractor had working with teachers, parent volunteers, interested neighbors, and especially children. Were they able to think through the details of life on a construction site with 40 inquisitive audience members? Were they willing to make use of our small army of excited volunteers who have been eagerly awaiting a chance to get involved? What made them excited about and interested in the project and BCS? These were wonderful discussion about where to get large quantities of hard hats and safety goggles!

During these conversations we discovered that Charley Mac Martin of Queen City Soil and Stone was uniquely suited to our project. As a former teacher of young children Charley has some great ideas about how to safely include children in the project. As a current teacher of stone wall workshops he is prepared to work with volunteers ( those lucky volunteers!). Charley's work can be seen at http://queencitysoilandstone.com/. Nex up volunteer opportunties. Stay tuned.

On May 4 teachers, parents , and playground designers met to decide on next steps. We gave feedback on the final plan and discussed the feasibility of keeping part of the playground open while construction is under way ( we think it can be done). We decided, primarily because of logistics, to begin with the infant area and work toward the preschool. The infant garden will be phase one and we will include the tree house if our budget goes that far.

The next step will be to meeting with contractors ( Jon and Danielle are coordinating this) and , with the contractor's help, developing a list of materials we can ask local businesses to donate. We have to coordinate donations carefully so that we get materials the contractor(s) can use and at a time when they can be used without having to be stored. Soon a donation area will be up and running on our winwinapps so that friends and donors can sponsor an element of the playground and help us stretch our budget.

We're skipping ahead to show off the plans

On April 1 We held a family dinner to reveal the plans. While slurping squash soup, and eating fresh bread and cheese we had a look.

View the full set of plans by using the link under "More information about programs and projects".

We played around with our ideas

After collecting all of our ideas we hired Jon Adams-Kollitz and Danielle Allen,from Stratiform Landworks, to create a working plan. Jon and Danielle were excited about working with us and they donated many hours of their time to host interactive design charettes with parents, children and staff. The understood that the planning of the playground was as important to us as the end result. The playground will be a reflection of our connection to the world we are exploring, the people we know and love, and the rituals we are creating together. We wanted a design process that allowed us to deepen our understanding of these values.

For our designs we used natural materials, found objects, and lots blocks from Learning Materials Workshop, an excellent source of blocks and learning tools right across the street from our school. Karen Hewitt, the owner of LMW , has been working on many projects at BCS involving researching new toys she is designing and studying the ways children are using blocs to understand the world. Karen Even held a design session for teachers where we created playgrounds for spiders, snakes, and bugs.

We took all of our ideas and created models of our dream playground. Jon and Danielle built a model of the school that we could add to and manipulate. We documented these planning sessions, took notes about the ideas we liked the most, and told a lot of stories about what we would do there some day.

Sorting our ideas

After collecting hundreds of photographs, stories, and artifacts, we began to look for elements that stood out or were repeated. This occupied us during the long months of winter.




Water, Grass, Rocks, Snow

Places to hide

and things to ride.

We are researchers, adventurers, collaborators.

The first stage of the process was to go out into the community to collect information about the places we love.

What do we do here? What is special about the feel, smell, sounds, and rituals we create in this place? What interest does it have for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, families? What is it like in different seasons? These were the questions we had in mind on our many outings.

We used digital cameras, notebooks, clipboards, and memory to hold onto what we found. We reflected individually and together sharing inspiration and telling stories. We collected our ideas to collect more.