Friday, April 20, 2012

Scenes from Imagination Playground

There’s one word to describe kids in Imagination Playground: BUSY! Well, there are plenty of words, but that’s a first impression – a beehive of activity. Children buzz around doing some serious stacking and positioning to create artful sculptures, forts, cities, tentacled creatures and more.

The blocks naturally inspire collaboration and it’s remarkable to see how easily and fluidly kids of all ages join one another's play, building, reshaping and starting over. Some favorites of the many wonderful moments I've observed:

Siblings, 12 years old and younger, spent an hour building an intricate sculpture with an array of blocks plus fabric, plastic hoops, jump ropes, wooden figures. They carefully placed each piece and continued to add on, welcoming other kids to the play, and their creation ultimately evolved into an elaborate "houseboat."

A young boy building with ramps and tracks – testing, readjusting, trying again. When he finally got everything lined up just right to direct rolling balls where he wanted them, the whole room broke out into applause!

Two older girls used many of the square and rectangular blocks to build a fort with their younger foster siblings. The smaller children gathered parts while their older sisters put them in place. Over time the fort developed into a house, complete with wall-to-wall carpet squares and furniture made of curved and spool-shaped blocks. Then they knocked it all down and used the pieces to create artful seesaws that continued to grow more elaborate, and the older kids gave the younger ones rides.

Credit: Jeff Wager, The Herald News
A girl, about 8 years old, lined up a long row of rectangular blocks – narrow side up – to create a balance beam. She followed its path quickly and confidently, adding more blocks to lengthen the track following each journey. After watching her for a few moments, younger children began to join in, carefully practicing their steps and keeping their balance.

Using many of the other loose parts – plastic tubes, cardboard cones, wooden figures – a boy of about 7 laid out a Boston cityscape, complete with skyscrapers, pedestrians and T stops! He took his engineering and architecture very seriously, careful to replicate his parents’ commute to the city as closely as possible.

Another young architect spent a long, focused period building what he described as an art museum, carefully and deliberately searching for just the right part. He said that he didn’t approach his design with a plan, but it was clear to the observer that he knew the piece he needed when he saw it, and that he had an eye for symmetry and aesthetics.

A gang of four kids – three boys and a girl, ages 9, 10 and 12 – worked on their own creations in close proximity, also with a thoughtful choice of pieces and much time spent. Each was different – one very tall with a mix of angles and curves, one very low – an “amusement park” built from tracks and twisting tubes – and one a pyramid-like stack of squares and rectangles that began to grow a tail of curving blocks. Together, the finished structures looked like the whimsical skyline of an imaginary land – a landscape of sculptures. And then the oldest boy became King Kong and knocked everything down!

– Megan Fischer, Director of Communications

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