The Learning Academy

100 Level Courses

A Higher Level of Inclusive Play®: A new approach to inclusive playground design

Playgrounds are a place for play and learning—where kids develop physical and cognitive skills and build social relationships. However, not all playgrounds are welcoming to people of varying abilities. During this continuing education session, you will learn about the changing population of children on the playground, and how to create playground designs that meet their unique needs.

Learning objectives:

  1. There is a growing demand for inclusive playgrounds that meet the needs of a wide range of abilities.
  2. Going beyond what’s required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ensures your inclusive playground will be engaging, challenging and therapeutic.
  3. There are specific design elements to include for best practice in an inclusive play environment.
  4. There are best practices to ensure your inclusive playground project is embraced by the community.

Everybody Plays. A Guide to Multigenerational Design

As our population continues to age, communities must continue to stay livable and usable to all because the reality is we’re designing these communities for our future selves. According to the World Health Organization, by 2050, 2 billion people will be over the age of 60. This takes a look at the evolution of our aging population and age-integration trends, and will address how intentionally designed parks contribute to healthy lifestyles, keep older adults engaged and combat common ageist beliefs.

Learning objectives:

  1. The necessity of intergenerational spaces and their importance in all communities as our population ages.
  2. The benefits of escaping ageist beliefs and promoting an active societal contribution using shared sites.
  3. Best practices to support multigenerational park design.

Designing Fitness-Focused Playgrounds: A stealth-health community wellness solution

Statistics on obesity rates and sedentary lifestyle changes over generations illustrate the need for community changes and the importance of motivating kids to be active. This continuing education session will provide tips for creating playground designs to get and keep kids active, and help you make a positive and healthy impact on your community.

Learning objectives:

  1. Several fitness benefits can be gained on the playground.
  2. Each fitness benefit is crucial to healthy child development.
  3. Various playground components provide specific fitness benefits.
  4. Playgrounds can be designed for maximum physical fitness benefits.

Inclusive Playspace Design: A Planning Guide

Playgrounds are a place for play and learning, where children develop physical and cognitive skills, and where they build valuable social relationships. It’s about creating spaces where all kids can explore in a variety of settings, addressing a variety of interests, senses and skills. This education session will provide an overview of the 10-step process—from connecting community members to planning, designing, promoting and funding—to develop an inclusive playspace.

Learning objectives:

  1. The inclusive playground definition and its benefits to people of all ages and abilities.
  2. Step-by-step process of managing an inclusive playground project.
  3. Best practices for successful community engagement, participation and activation.

Maintaining Safe Play Environments: Keep your playground compliant and fun

Nature-Inspired Playground Design: Design for participation, education and safety compliance

The benefits of free play and daily exposure to nature have been researched and reported in nearly every media outlet in recent years. Playground planners have an opportunity to create playground spaces that encourage children and families to get outdoors, interact with their environment, learn about their natural surroundings, and encourage the reconnection with nature. The Nature-Inspired Playground Design continuing education session explores the wide range of natural play environments.

Learning objectives:

  1. Play in nature is valuable for healthy child development.
  2. Characteristics of natural play environments include wild spaces to school yards and public parks.
  3. Maximize participation and learning through specific design considerations and best practice programming.
  4. Different safety and accessibility standards apply to various natural playground environments.

Trends in Play Space Design: Activity, engagement and involvement

Parks today face the challenge of providing environments that will attract children and families to engage, play and stay. To compete with indoor, more sedentary activities. In this session, we will examine playground trends that create kid magnets, facilitate multi-generational interaction and signature playgrounds that tell a community story. Discussions will also focus on the opportunities for stronger collaboration between playground designers and park planners.

Learning objectives:

  1. Leading trends in play space design and the external influences driving these trends.
  2. Innovative concepts that can be applied to play space design.
  3. How to specify new concepts and material choices.

Play it Cool: Have Fun in the Sun with Shade

Parks today face the challenge of providing environments where all visitors can feel safe, secure and fully engaged. Shade is becoming increasingly important in a wide range of outdoor recreational environments. Shade structures increase the safety, functionality and longevity of everything they cover and protect. In this continuing education session, participants will discover how to plan, budget and specify for the most appropriate shade elements to meet their unique needs. 

Statistics show an increase in the incidence of skin cancers and other medical conditions caused by excess sun exposure. Melanoma is among the most common forms of cancer in adolescents and young adults. Often that is the result of repeat sunburns in childhood. Shade structures not only reduce UV exposure by as much as 97%, but also create cool comfortable environments where people can enjoy the many benefits of outdoor recreation.

Learning objectives:

  1. Identify the wide range of shade options and how to choose the right shade structure for your needs.
  2. Understand whether your project is driven by aesthetic, function, or budget?
  3. Articulate the design and construction process steps.
  4. Specify and budget for shade systems correctly.

Designing a Spray Park A to Z

Spray parks are a fast growing amenity to park and recreation departments. This session will present ideas on the process of installing a spray park and the intricate details of design, budgeting, site amenities, water source, codes, bidding, construction and maintenance. Presenters will describe the analytical process of designing for sustaining the environment and explain the maintenance requirements of the surface, water source and features.

Learning Outcomes 

  1. Attendees will be able to comprehend the design & construction of their project by understanding the issues and process of the project.
  2. Attendees will be able to determine sources of water supply and implementation of the source.
  3. Attendees will be able to comprehend the complexity of the project to facilitate budgeting and scheduling the project.
  4. Attendees will be able to communicate with code inspectors concerning waterborne illnesses and safety concerns.

Inclusive Spray Play

Communities across the country are adding spray and splash parks, and are focused on using universal design practices to welcome people of all ages and abilities. This session will examine the best practice recommendations for designing inclusive spray parks including placement of site amenities and spray features to embrace inclusive, team and group spray play. Discussions will focus on the safety, accessibility, and mechanical considerations that factor into a successful spray play environment, and share safety issues to discuss with local inspectors. 

Learning Outcomes

  1.  Attendees will be able to examine the growing trend in spray grounds and splash parks and why they are fun and engaging for people of all ages and abilities
  2. Attendees will be able to identify the best practice recommendations for designing inclusive spray parks including placement of site amenities and spray features to embrace inclusive, team and group spray play. 
  3. Attendees will be able to discuss the safety, accessibility and mechanical considerations that factor into a successful spray play environment and be able to discuss safety issues with their local inspector and departments of health officials.